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Incorrect prescription method can lead to medication errors

Making sure that medications are taken properly is a duty of people who dispense medications, such as nurses and doctors in hospitals and nursing homes. One thing that has to be considered is the best method for a patient to take the medication. In some cases, the choices are whether to swallow a pill whole or to cut it or crush it to make it easier to take. There are some instances in which crushing or cutting a pill isn't appropriate.

It is vital that when a person has a prescription pill to take that the appropriate method is made clear. That includes whether the pill must be swallowed as one whole pill or not. Some pills, such as extended release tablets and capsules can't be chewed, cut or crushed because the medication isn't meant to be released all at once. Instead, those medications must be taken whole.

The need to swallow larger pills is one that is difficult for some patients. Because of that, some providers might have to prescribe alternate medications, such as immediate release formulas, if those alternatives are smaller and easier to swallow.

There are several consequences that can occur if a patient chews, crushes or cuts medications that aren't meant to be used in that manner. The most serious consequence, as was evidenced by an 83-year-old woman who chewed Cardizem CD, is death. Patients should go over their medications with their health care provider. Health care providers and people who administer medications should make sure that patients understand the proper method for taking all prescribed medications.

Source: Institute for Safe Medication Practices, "To chew, or not to chew? Patient dies after chewing medication," accessed March. 26, 2015

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