Dos and Don'ts on Prescriptions


Tips for consumers, doctors and pharmacists to help avoid a drug mix-up:

* Consumers should carry a list of both the brand and generic names of every drug they take. Thus, if a pharmacist hands over the ulcer drug Prilosec instead of the antidepressant Prozac, "You can say, 'That's not on my list,' " advised Bruce Lambert of the University of Illinois-Chicago.

* Ask your doctor to write the reason for the medication on the prescription. "It's harder for a pharmacist to think the scribbled word is 'Prilosec' instead of 'Prozac' if it's followed by 'to treat depression,' " said Michael Cohen of the Institute for Safe Medical Practices.

* Doctors can use computers instead of writing prescriptions by hand.

* Pharmacists should carefully check the dosage prescribed. Some drugs demand much higher doses than others, a tip-off that the pharmacist initially read the drug's name wrong, advised Chicago pharmacologist James O'Donnell.

* Don't just let your pharmacist hand you the bottle--insist he or she explain what the drug is for, O'Donnell said. Thus if the pharmacist says you're getting Navene, a tranquilizer, "You can say, 'Wait a minute, I had chest pain,' " prompting the pharmacist to realize you were supposed to get the heart drug Norvasc.

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