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ISMP Medication Safety Alert

Eye drops or ear drops? Don't let this common mix-up happen to you!

A patient put ear drops in her eye and experienced burning and itching. Why did she do this? Because when she filled her prescription for eye drops, the pharmacy dispensed ear drops instead and labeled the drops as eye drops. This is not too uncommon, unfortunately, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the physician's handwriting is so poor that the pharmacist misreads the prescription. In this case, the pharmacy technician prepared the prescription, and the pharmacist missed the error when checking her work. As a patient, be aware that this can happen. Double-check the label on the product--if it says "otic," it's for the ear, and if it says "ophthalmic," it's for the eye. Ear drops NEVER go in the eye, but some eye products can be used safely in the ear. Ask your pharmacist when you fill an ear or eye drop prescription to counsel you about the product to prevent this error from happening to you.

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