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Stanford Medicine

Medicine and Society

One label fits all? A universal schedule for prescription drugs

How many of us have looked at a prescription bottle and have been confused by the dosing instructions? Imagine the difficulties facing the average senior, who juggles six to eight medications daily. A piece on today’s New Old Age (a New York Times blog) takes a look at the need to simplify things in order to reduce medication errors:

“We see this not as a patient problem, but as a health care system problem,” [Michael Wolf, PhD, MPH] said. A review of thousands of prescriptions revealed, for instance, that pharmacists use literally dozens of different phrases that all mean: Take one tablet each day. “The variability was horrendous,” Dr. Wolf said. “Why can’t we standardize prescriptions?’

Wolf, who studies medication safety at Northwestern University, is a proponent of the universal medicine schedule, an idea first proposed by the Institute of Medicine three years ago. Standardized instructions would separate necessary doses into four periods each day – morning, noon, evening and bedtime – and is something Wolf calls “ridiculously simple, an incredibly basic idea.”

Legislation requiring a universal medication schedule has been introduced in New York and has already become law in California.

Previously: Measuring device alert for over-the-counter liquid meds
Photo by Thirteen of Clubs

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