Reading Pharmacy Leaflets Can Prevent an Error


The story: If you receive a medication leaflet with your prescription, do you read it? Recent studies show that 3 out of 4 people throw the medication leaflet away without ever glancing at it! But reading the leaflet can help you avoid a serious mistake. Here's just one story:

A doctor called in a prescription for an antibiotic Noroxin (norfloxacin) 400 milligrams for a patient with a urinary tract (bladder) infection. However, the pharmacist thought the doctor said, Neurontin (gabapentin) 400 milligrams, which is a medication used to treat seizures. Fortunately, after picking up the prescription, the man read the medication leaflet that was stapled to the bag. He couldn't recall the name of the drug his doctor had mentioned, but he knew something was wrong when he read that Neurontin was used to treat seizures. He called the pharmacy to ask why he'd been given medicine for seizures instead of an antibiotic for his infection. The pharmacist called the doctor and the error was corrected.

The rest of the story: Many pharmacies have taken steps to prevent mistakes with medications that have names that look or sound alike. But unfortunately, errors can still happen. Medication leaflets offer you a way to find an error before you start taking your medicine. It also gives you important information about taking your medication safely. It explains the warning signs of minor side effects that can be treated at home and more serious side effects that require you to call your doctor.

Lessons learned: Take time to read the medication leaflets that accompany your prescriptions. If your pharmacist doesn't give you one, ask for it. It's unfortunate that some leaflets use confusing medical terms or other language that's sometimes hard to understand. But never be embarrassed to call your pharmacist and ask for an explanation if it doesn't make sense. And don't hesitate to call if the information you're reading is not what you expected. While there's no substitute for clear instructions, the leaflets can help you remember what your doctor and pharmacist told you and increase your chances of discovering an error. Armed with proper information, you can protect and be a strong defense against errors.

Created on May 1, 2003

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