We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Prescription Error?

By Dorothy Distefano
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Medications are dispensed by pharmacies either directly to patients, or to hospital or healthcare staff members for administration to patients. When the incorrect medication or dosage is given by pharmacy or healthcare personnel — or has been taken incorrectly by a patient — a prescription error has occurred. The procedure following the error is dependent upon the type of error, the medication, or the facility's policy.

A prescription may be filled by a pharmacist, or by a certified pharmacy technician under the direction of a licensed pharmacist. In the United States, a pharmacist must hold a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an accredited school, as well as a license from the state in which the pharmacist will be practicing. A certified pharmacy technician has been educated, tested, and certified by a formal agency such as the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. Prescriptions filled by a pharmacy technician should be checked by the licensed pharmacist prior to dispensing, to protect the patient from a prescription error.

Each pharmacy generally has policies and procedures in place to reduce the possibility of a pharmacist or technician making a prescription error. While each pharmacy will likely have variations, many of the steps are similar. The process begins when the prescription is presented to the pharmacy.

Initially the patient information, including insurance, is typically entered into the computer database. This will usually indicate the payment method and any contraindications with other medications that have been prescribed. The medication bottle label will be printed from this information.

To fill the prescription, the pharmacist or technician will check the drug name and dosage. After obtaining the appropriate drug, it must be properly dispensed. Tablets or capsules may be poured onto a counting tray, and the appropriate quantity is counted. The drug, dosage, and quantity must be carefully checked to avoid a prescription error.

Some drugs require mixing, such as suspensions or elixirs. An elixir is usually either a syrup or alcohol, with the drug dissolved in it. A suspension is also a liquid, but the medication is not dissolved — rather, it is suspended within the liquid. Suspensions must be shaken well prior to measuring each dose, to ensure the proper distribution of medication within the solution.

After the medication has been counted or mixed, it should be appropriately labeled with the patient’s name, the medication name, and the appropriate dosage, in addition to clear instructions for taking the prescription medicine. It can then be given to the patient for home use, or delivered to the appropriate location within a healthcare facility. Once properly dispensed, any prescription error would generally be related to administering an incorrect dosage, or failing to take the medication as prescribed.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.