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ISMP Medication Safety Alert


Treat Medication Samples with Respect

A physician may give you samples of a particular medication at the time of your office or clinic visit. Typically, this may done at the start of a new prescription so the physician can see if the medication is effective for your condition and is well tolerated before you purchase a large amount. This is a reasonable idea, particularly if it saves you from having medications available that you can no longer use. (Keeping medications on hand that have been discontinued is definitely not a safe practice!). The best way to obtain samples is when you receive a voucher from your physician that is later filled at your pharmacy. Unfortunately, not all pharmaceutical companies offer a voucher program for medication samples.

Problems with medication samples begin when they are dispensed from the office without clear instructions for use. Errors of all types have occurred when patients are unclear about the use of sample medications. To be on the safe side, make sure that when you receive a sample from your practitioner there is a label attached which clearly indicates:

  1. Your name:
  2. The reason for the medication
  3. The amount that you should take
  4. The frequency with which you should take it
  5. Special precautions for use
  6. Any significant side effects that can be expected.

If you receive an antibiotic sample, you may need to add water to make a liquid suspension. This should be clearly described to you on the label. It is very important that you following the instructions for dilution of the medication very carefully, as adding the improper amount of water will result in a concentration of medication that is too high or too low. If a mix-up in the dilution occurs, your dose will not be accurate.

Be aware of the expiration date on the package, as samples may be stored for long periods of time in a doctor's office before use.

If you are already taking other medications, or use over-the-counter or herbal products, discuss any possible medication interactions with your doctor. If a question arises at a later time regarding potential interactions, contact your pharmacist or physician for advise. You can check a particular medication by using the link below. (Drug Checker). Institute for Safe Medication Practices

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