Published Online: Tuesday, August 1, 2006

A survey of 150 pharmacists revealed that trouble in identifying tablets leads to patient and caregiver errors in administering the right medication and is the number-1 cause of pharmacy dispensing mistakes. Pharmacists believe, however, that tablets with a distinct color, shape, and identifying imprint will reduce drug errors.

Of the pharmacists surveyed, 80% said that the fact that medications look alike is the top reason that patients and caregivers have difficulty in identifying medications. This scenario is more likely to happen when patients transfer their medications to unlabeled containers. With an average rating of 8.3 on a 0- 10 agreement scale, pharmacists agree that problems are multiplied when hard-to-distinguish tablets and capsules are taken from the original bottles and put into containers holding various medications. Pharmacy boards in 3 states—California, Wyoming, and Oregon—have taken action by instituting regulations mandating that prescription bottle labels include the color, shape, and any identification code appearing on the tablets or capsules.

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