You have no doubt heard some very tragic horror stories of horrific drug mix-ups. Notable ones have included a child or young mother accidentally given methadone (a drug very much like heroin) instead of a much needed antibiotic, or a person with a deathly allergy to Penicillin mistakenly given a drug that contains the antibiotic.
Such mix-ups occur everyday in this country as well as throughout the world. They account for everything from mild symptoms all the way through to disabling illnesses and even death. I’ve been through at least two near death experiences and a few more very troubling times because either a doctor did not pay attention to my stated drug allergies or the pharmacist did not review my allergy list against a ‘script the doctor wrote for me. But even when you use your regular doctor as well as your long-time pharmacy, mistakes simply happen. Your best bet is to be prepared by making sure the drug you get is the one you’re supposed to take.
Thankfully, in a country where the price of everything medical is climbing through the roof and up into the stratosphere, you’ve got a major helping hand to keep yourself from unfortunate and perhaps dangerous drug mishaps. A growing number of resources available online through Web sites can help you double-check the drugs you get before you fall victim to a tragic yet highly avoidable mistake by actually taking your first dose. Best yet, many of these resources are free and quite easy to use even if you unaccustomed to taking prescription drugs or reviewing drug information.
Visit drugs.com, for example, and you can use their Pill Identification section to look up pills and capsules by their appearance as well as by their imprint, or the numbers or alphanumeric characters either stamped onto the medication or engraved into its surface. The same holds true for sites like Rxlist.com where you can search by drug type, manufacturer name (like Merck or Pfizer) as well as the drug imprint code. WebMD helps, too, through their Drugs A-Z section usually listed at the bottom of their pages.
If you have trouble reading the drug imprint code, take it under a bright light and make use of a magnifying glass, if needed. You don’t want to guess, since the number you believe you read may be the imprint code for another drug altogether.
Here’s a tip: even if you’ve used a drug before and “think” you know what it should look like, you’re better safe than sorry if you do a check on the drug itself. After all, it’s always possible the pharmacy mistook a very similarly appearing drug for the one you’re supposed to take, just as you might if you took your first dose without checking.
This type of incident happened to me several years ago and resulted in a scary trip to the Emergency Room. Likewise, another time a new doctor failed to note the several times I told him I was allergic to a specific codeine-based pain reliever and prescribed a cough medicine with that medication included. My regular pharmacy also failed to catch the problem and the result left me spending hours where every breath was a tough one.
But what I went through pales in comparison to a cousin of mine who got the wrong drug during her fifth month of pregnancy. The medication was a special preparation only meant for men, and the result affected both the rest of her pregnancy but prevented her from being able to breast feed her child. These days, she faithfully checks all drugs online through the resources you just learned about.