September 16, 2011

The names of common prescription medications may be hard to spell as well as pronounce. How do the drug companies come up with the names of their drugs? Why can’t they make the names easy to remember and easy to spell? Why can’t the names of the drugs help to remind patients what they are used for?

Until drug manufacturers help us with remembering and spelling their drug names, you should ask your prescribing doctor or other health care provider to write down the name of  any new drug prescribed for you (make sure you look at what your doctor wrote down so that you can read the writing) and ask that the prescriber pronounce the name of the drug for you until you feel comfortable that you can tell someone else the correct name of the drug (if someone questions you about the medications you are taking, you’ll want to feel confident that the names of the drugs that you provide will be accurate — there are many similar sounding drugs that are used for very different medical conditions).

When you receive any refills for your medications, check the label to make sure that the patient’s name and the prescribing doctor’s name on the prescription label is your name and your doctor’s name — pharmacies have been known to mistakenly provide the wrong medication to the wrong patient, resulting in medical complications and medical malpractice claims. Make sure that the spelling of the medication on the label matches the name and spelling of the medication that was prescribed for you. Make sure that the physical appearance of the medication and any identifying letters and numbers on the medication when being refilled match your current medication. If not, show the differences to your pharmacist and question why there are differences (it takes little time for a pharmacist to double-check to make sure you are receiving the proper medication that was prescribed for you that may avoid a pharmacy mistake that may otherwise result in serious medical injuries and a medical malpractice claim). Make sure that the dosage information matches what your doctor ordered (the strength of the medication as well as how the medication is to be taken, how often it is taken, and when the medication is to be taken).

If you are in a hospital, inpatient, or outpatient setting and you are being administered medications by someone else, question the person giving you medication as to the name of the medication, why the medication is being prescribed for you (that is, for what condition), who prescribed the medication for you, the amount (dosage) being given to you, and if you are being given the appropriate dosage at the appropriate time. If you have any questions or concerns that are not addressed to your satisfaction, ask that the information be verified before receiving the medication (in an emergency or urgent circumstance, this may not always be a viable option).

When it comes to prescription medications, ask questions such as what possible side effects may result while taking the drugs, what should you do if you miss a dose, should take the drugs before, during, or after meals, how should you store the drugs, should you avoid certain activities or foods or other medications while taking the drugs, etc.

It is a good idea to have a list of all of your medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, with you at all times (in your wallet, in your purse, etc.)  and that your caregivers and loved ones have access to a copy of the list. The list should include the names of all medications as well as vitamins and supplements that you take, the dosage of each medication, the medical conditions for which you take the medication, and how you take the medication and the time of day when you take the medications.

If possible, you should have all of your medications filled at the same pharmacy because most pharmacies have computer programs that will flag (warn) when a new prescription may cause problems with other medications being taken.


If you have been given the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of a medication and you suffered serious consequences as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to help you with your claim. If you prefer, you may contact us toll free at 800-295-3959.

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