Published Online: Wednesday, November 1, 2006

During the recent "Talk About Prescriptions" month, the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) focused on reducing medication errors by what it calls the medicine education team. The council noted that 4 of every 5 US adults will use a prescription or OTC medication or dietary supplements over the course of a week. It is estimated that hospitalized patients can expect to be subjected to >1 drug error each day.

"The patient or caregiver is a key member of this team since the decision to start, stop, or correctly continue medication therapy resides ultimately with the patient," said Phillip Schneider, NCPIE chairman. "Doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and other health care providers must communicate more effectively with patients, including fully informing [them] about the risks, contraindications, and possible side effects of the medications they are taking and what to do if they experience a side effect."

The council encouraged patients (and caregivers) to take a more active role in stopping medication errors by keeping thorough records of all the medications they are taking and assuming more responsibility for checking those medications—for example, double-checking prescriptions from pharmacies and reporting any unexpected changes in how they feel after starting a new drug.

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