Reduce your medicine errors
Ideally, there would be no such thing as a medication error. Unfortunately, medication errors can occur and have the potential to be dangerous, particularly for an older person or someone taking multiple medications. People with Parkinson’s may be particularly vulnerable to medication errors, consider that their medication regimens are often complex, and their Parkinson’s or the medications they take for their Parkinson’s may interact with other medications.
There are numerous sources of medication errors, which can happen either in the community or in a hospital. Some examples of errors include poor prescriber handwriting leading to the wrong medication being filled at a pharmacy, the wrong dose of a medication being given, taking two medications that interact, or even just forgetting to take medications or having medications delayed. As a patient, you have “5 Rights” when it comes to your medications: Right Patient (you!), Right Medication, Right Dose, Right Time, and Right Route (e.g. swallowed, injected, put on the skin as a patch, etc). Whether you are managing your medications at home by yourself or with a care partner, or you are in the hospital and a nurse is giving them to you, you can take steps to make sure you achieve these rights.
The first step to avoiding a medication error is to keep an updated, accurate medication list. When you make your list, make sure to include:
- All prescription medications AND over-the-counter medications (herbals, vitamins, supplements, medications for pain or allergies, creams, etc)
- What dose of each medicine you take (include the strength of the tablet/capsule and how many you take). This is especially important if you are on carbidopa/levodopa (Sinemet). Check the bottle to be sure the dose is correct. Know if you are taking 10/100, 25/100. 25/250. 25/100 ER or CR, 50/200 ER or CR (It is not difficult to see how the wrong dose of this medicine can be given!)
- How often you take each medicine
- Why you take each medicine (this reminds not only you and your family, but also informs healthcare providers because some medications may be used for more than one reason)
If you are unsure of how to make a list or don’t know what dose of a medicine you take or why you’re taking it, ask your pharmacist or health care provider to help you make the list. Most importantly, keep the list updated every time a change in your medicine is made. Keep a copy with you at all times and also give a copy to a family member or friend so that in an emergency, healthcare workers can quickly see what medicines you take. Helpful websites for creating a medication list include:
Aside from keeping a medication list, there are other action steps you can take to help dodge medication errors. Every time you receive a new prescription from your doctor, ask the following questions:
- What is the name of this medicine? Ask that the brand name and the generic name of the medicine are written down for you.
- Why are you prescribing this? When can I expect a benefit with this medication?
- How should I take this medicine?
- What are the most important side effects I should watch out for?
Repeat these questions at the pharmacy, and make sure the bottle of medicine you receive matches up (name of the medicine, dose, and instructions on how to take it) with what you were told. Other questions to ask the pharmacist include:
- Should I take this medication at a certain time of the day?
- Should this be taken with food?
- What side effects should I watch out for?
- What happens if I forget to take a dose?
- Will this interact with any of my other medications or my Parkinson’s disease?
These questions are also important to ask when you are picking out an over-the-counter medication. In particular, some cough or cold medicines can interact with Parkinson’s medications, so it’s a good idea to ask your pharmacist for a safe recommendation.
Author: Lindy D. Wood, PharmD, Spokane WA