An estimated four out of five adults in the United States take prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or dietary supplements.
That's a lot of pills Americans are ingesting daily and that means there is no room for error.
But these mistakes do happen.
Recently, a New Jersey pharmacy made headlines for mistakenly distributing breast cancer drugs instead of fluoride pills to children.
Giving a prescription drug to the wrong person is the ultimate pharmacy failure.
"Pharmacists and technicians work diligently to make sure that doesn't happen, but errors do occur," says Michael Manolakis, assistant dean at Wingate University School of Pharmacy.
In about 12 percent of cases, according to a study published by the Journal of the America Medical Informatics Association, of the almost 4,000 computer-generated prescriptions received by a chain of commercial pharmacies, nearly a third of the 466 total errors were considered potentially harmful.
America Now wanted to know what pharmacists do to keep their own families safe from these type of errors.
The first thing to remember is that prescription drug safety starts at your doctor's office.
When your physician is writing your prescription, ask them about the name of the drug, how the prescription works, its strength, as well as how long you should take the drug and how to store the medication. You should also ask about any possible side effects.
"As your physician is giving you answers, take your smart phone out and jot down the note," recommends Manolakis.
When you arrive at your pharmacy, take advantage of the opportunity to ask them the same questions.
"The technician will say as they process the prescription, 'Would you like to ask the pharmacist a question?' And at this point, you say -- 'Yes I do! I have a couple of questions,'" Manolakis adds.
Take out your notepad or your phone, and check to see if the pharmacy technician's answers correlate with the information provided by your physician.
"If they [customers] feel like their pharmacy is too busy to answer these questions, then they should consider going to another pharmacy that does have the time to answer these questions, because it is about their health," points out Joe Moose, the pharmacist manager at Moose Pharmacy in Concord, North Carolina.
Pharmaceutical mix-ups can also happen in the maze of our medicine cabinets and drawers at home with faded labels, unmarked packages and similar-looking pills.
Before acting as your own personal apothecary, let the professionals take a closer look at your medicines.
Pharmacists can read a pill and easily identify it by color, shape, size and little marks like numbers and letters.
You can look your medications up online, but it is much better to bring your pills back to your pharmacy or call them to make a match.
This is also important to remember when getting a refill, even when taking the drug is routine.
Don't forget to do a double-take to ensure the accuracy of the pills you have been given.
"The manufacturers can change the color of the medication or the pharmacy can switch manufacturers and still be dispensing the same medication, but if it looks different, you do want to ensure that was the medication intended for you," Moose points out.
Medication and those white coats can be a little intimidating, but taking a few minutes to ask a few questions gives you, your family, and your pharmacist a chance to check.
It's a simple dose of precaution, that can often prevent any damaging side effects of a prescription slip up.
The following information is from a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Catching Deadly Drug Mistakes."
The following information is from a U.S. News & World Report article entitled "E-Prescribing Doesn't Slash Errors, Study Finds" and based on information obtained from a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Infomatics Association.