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Your Prescription—Right From the Start

Your Prescription—Right From the Start

Has your doctor ever handed you a prescription that you’ve been completely unable to read? But when you hand the mystery message over to the pharmacist, she says, “No problem. You can pick it up in an hour.” How can she possibly know what the doctor ordered, you wonder?

Well, fortunately, most of the time pharmacists get it right. But even when totally legible printed prescriptions are used, mistakes happen—51 million a year out of 3 billion medications dispensed, says Pharmacy Times. And while that’s a small percentage, it’s a huge number.

So, when you get a prescription, ask the doctor or his staff member what it says, and then write the info down on a separate piece of paper. This way, you can double check what you know to be correct with what the pharmacist says. But don’t stop there.

According to one Canadian study, it seems a lot of mistakes get made once the right med with the right dose comes home with you. Labels on medication bottles can be hard to read, so instead of taking one pill every four hours for three days, you may take three pills every four days—or some other mix-up—and either fail to get the treatment you need or overdose yourself.

To fix this, check that you can easily read and understand the label BEFORE you leave the pharmacy. If you can’t, ask for a do-over with clearer, cleaner, bigger type.

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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