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Pharmacy errors cause over 7,000 deaths per year, and around 5% of the more than 3 billion prescriptions filled are incorrect, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). The NABP has even created a special task force to combat medication errors in pharmacies as the number of prescriptions increases and the potential for error rises as well. Pharmacy medication errors can be lethal. In addition to receiving the wrong drug for a condition, a potentially life-threatening error, are other hazards, for example, administering an adult dose of medicine to a child, which can cause serious internal damage or death.

While organizations such as the NABP work on improving product naming and labeling and other measures, patients can take a role in protecting themselves. When you are given a prescription, make sure your doctor tells you the exact name and spelling of the drug – write the information down. One major cause of prescription errors are radically different drugs with similar-sounding names. Make sure that you can also read, on the prescription your doctor gives you, the exact dosage you are to take. If you can’t read it, the pharmacist may not be able to either, and rather than call the doctor for clarification, as he should, he may fill your prescription based on what he thinks the doctor has written. When the pharmacist asks you if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to speak up if you do. Prescription errors are almost always caused by negligence and system breakdown. While patients are not responsible for the negligence of another, and cannot always protect themselves, it makes good sense to do whatever one can to minimize the likelihood of a harmful medication error.

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