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Clearly labeled medications crucial in preventing errors

Two square inches of text can make the difference between a successful medical treatment and an unmitigated catastrophe. One medical professional indicated that medication labels are probably the most important factor involved in prescription errors. These labels allow doctors to make sure that each drug is appropriate for a particular patient's needs. Patients visiting medical centers in Erie, and throughout the country, should take note of this important feature of their medications.

According to the Institute of Medicine, medication errors harm, at minimum, 1.5 million people annually. Furthermore, at least one hospital patient is affected by this costly error on a daily basis. The number of outpatient prescription errors is unclear, but is probably higher.

The labels on prescription drugs provide information about how each medication should be prescribed, the associated risks and any drugs that should not be taken together. If a doctor misreads the label or the directions are unclear, patients can suffer. This is why every bit of space on a medication's label is so important.

One observer notes that the Food and Drug Administration should exercise its regulatory powers to extend to medication labeling. This way, labels can be consistent nationwide and all the necessary information will be included. Such a move could help save lives.

Medical providers have an obligation to do everything within their means to protect the health of their patients. One momentary, careless error made when reading a prescription drug label could change the lives of so many people. Knowing this, it is important for medical professionals to exercise caution every time they write a prescription. Likewise, government health officials should consider any reform that helps patients receive a higher standard of care.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio, "Preventing medication mistakes," May 2, 2012

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