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Avoiding medication errors with five simple tips

Four out of five adults in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. take some sort of prescription medication, over-the-counter drug or supplement every week. One third of adults even take five or more drugs at the same time. One can easily imagine, then, just how high the risk for a medication error can be. Certain combinations of drugs can cause adverse effects that injure or even kill the patient. With five simple tips, patients can help prevent such an adverse event from taking place.

First is to use all medication correctly, following the labels and the doctor's instructions. For example, one should not cut pills without approval or use ordinary silverware, and measuring the right dosage is crucial. The next tip is for patients to know their dosage. Dosage levels can differ between children and adults as well as between adults of different physical attributes. This leads to the third tip: to always be honest about height and weight and to know what they are in metric measurements.

Fourthly, one may avoid errors by keeping an updated list of all the medications that one takes and giving this to the doctor before he or she prescribes anything. The last tip is to schedule a follow-up. Some side effects, such as liver damage, can only be detected through lab testing.

Medication errors are the subject of many medical malpractice cases because these are often not the fault of patients but that of doctors. Of course, those who intend to pursue a malpractice claim will need to prove negligence on the doctor's part, and this may require legal assistance. A lawyer might request an inquiry with the local medical board and have third-party investigators look into the matter as well. Victims may have their lawyer negotiate on their behalf for a reasonable settlement.

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