My Pharmacy Has Given Me Too Much Medication, Why and How to Fix it

Posted May 22, 2019 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

Pharmacies are busy places, with a pharmacist filling up to 25 prescriptions in a single hour. While it’s uncommon, prescription errors can occur. So be on the lookout and know what to do if you have doubts about a prescription or think your pharmacist may have given you too much medication.

prescription errors

My pharmacy has given me too much medication, what should I do? If you have discovered an error in your prescription, and/or your pharmacist has given you too much medication, make sure you alert your pharmacist immediately to give them enough time to rectify the problem and provide you with the correct dosage.

Although it’s fairly uncommon, according to a study undertaken by the University of Connecticut, a prescription error is one of the most common types of healthcare mistakes.

Let’s take a look at the kind of mistakes that happen most often regarding prescriptions.

What Kind of Mistakes Can Happen With Prescriptions?

A prescription label with incorrect directions is probably the most frequent type of error. It’s less common, but more dangerous when a patient gets the wrong dose or wrong medication.

Many drugs have sound-alike names or look-alike spellings, and when they’re arranged alphabetically on the pharmacy shelf it’s very easy to choose the wrong one.

Interestingly, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration keeps a list of drugs associated with medication errors. Mix-ups have occurred, for instance, between methylphenidate (the generic name for Ritalin, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in kids) and methadone (a narcotic used to treat heroin addicts).

Let’s look at some advice to make sure your prescription is correct and that you have the right dosage.

What You Should Do When You Collect Your Prescription

Making sure you follow a few basic tips when you pick up your prescription will help you to find out if there have been any errors in your dosage.

The moment you pick up your prescription, depending on which state you collect it in, make sure you open the bag at the counter. Do not just walk away. Finding any issues immediately can be rectified more easily as your pharmacist will be able to look into any errors such as too much medication, without delay.

How to Make Sure the Pharmacist Has Given the Correct Dosage

prescription errors

Pharmacists are human, and errors occur. Their workloads are heavy, their shifts are long – sometimes 10 to 14 hours nonstop – and they deal with a huge number of distractions. So make sure you check your prescriptions thoroughly before leaving the pharmacy.

Also remember, other than giving you critical information about your medications, pharmacist-patient counseling sessions can sometimes uncover prescription errors. But customers may not realize they have a right to receive counseling before signing the form that says they received their meds at the cashier. Make sure you pause the checkout process and ask to talk to the pharmacist about any concerns.

‘Always ask the doctor to print out a list of your meds and a copy of new prescriptions, so you have them in hand when you talk to the pharmacist.’

This is the time to ask a few questions such as: –

  • What is the correct dosage?
  • Is this the correct amount of medication?
  • How you should take it?
  • How long should you take it?
  • Will it interfere with drugs you’re already taking?

What If You Discover an Error in Your Prescription?

When you’ve identified an error – even though no harm has resulted – you should let the pharmacy know. Assuming it’s still a valid prescription, this gives the staff a chance to document the mistake, locate the source of the error, work to correct the mistake and prevent future mishaps in the system.

If you or a family member were seriously hurt by the mistake, make sure you keep the prescription in a safe place, rather than automatically handing it back to the pharmacy, so you have evidence in any possible future litigation.

After informing the pharmacy, you’ll hopefully receive an apology and an explanation of what may have happened.

‘It’s understandable that if you’ve received too much medication, you want to be assured this won’t happen again and it doesn’t happen to someone else.”

Ultimately, it’s important to make sure the staff at your pharmacy communicates with you. The more information you have on the medications you’re supposed to take, how to take them, and how much you should receive the better off you will be.

This way, you’re going to be in a much better position of avoiding the possibility of something harmful happening to you or a family member.

Why Might Your Pharmacy Give You Too Much Medication?

prescription errors

According to the National Center for Bio-Technology, close to 6,800 prescription medications are available. With this large number of substances, it’s fairly reasonable to see that mistakes can be made when practitioners prescribe or dispense drugs. Added to this, many pharmacies are run like busy fast food restaurants. They have to process thousands of prescriptions per day.

Unfortunately, with high volume demands and pressure from their employers, most pharmacists have a stressful job – which leads to mistakes.

Many pharmacies are national chains and demand a high volume of sales from their pharmacists. Pharmacists that work for national chains are measured by quotas. Some have to fill as many as 50 prescriptions per hour. These type of high volume pharmacies can cause a lot of errors, including giving you too much medication.

Below are some main reasons mistakes may be made on your prescription.

  • Distractions
  • Distortions (for example, poor translations, misreading abbreviations, misunderstood symbols)
  • Illegible writing

Let’s look into why these situations can result in too much medication in your prescription or other errors.


It’s the unscheduled activity in the daily routine of a healthcare provider which provide a raft of distractions. Such as the constant pages, attendance at meetings, and answering phone calls that can disrupt patient care. Many doctors do not realize that these distractions are a problem, but such distractions are often the cause of medication errors.


Misreading symbols, abbreviations, and poor translation can lead to mistakes in prescriptions. A large number of healthcare providers in the United States are from foreign countries and often write orders for medications that are not even available over the counter.

When a practitioner questions the drug, the physician often asks the nurse or pharmacist to substitute the medication prescribed for a similar drug. This type of distortion can lead to major errors because neither the non-prescribing practitioner nor the pharmacist can substitute a drug.

Illegible Writing

When a pharmacist is unable to read the prescription order, they often have to resort to making their best guess. To eliminate such errors, most hospitals have rules that practitioners and pharmacists have to follow which is; if the drug order is illegible, the physician must be called and asked to rewrite the order clearly.

Medication errors most often are made at the ordering or prescribing stage. Some of the most usual errors are listed below:

  • Healthcare provider writing the wrong medication
  • Incorrect dose
  • Incorrect dosage frequency

These ordering errors account for almost 50% of medication errors. The data from the above National Center for Bio-Technology article shows that nurses and pharmacist errors can be account for between 30% to 70%.

The NCBT tells us that it’s obvious that medication errors are a very real problem, but in the majority of cases, these errors are preventable.

What happens if a pharmacy realizes they have given me too much medication? If your pharmacy realizes you’ve been given too much medication, They’ll likely contact you to recall them back in. Although there is no legal requirement to deliver these, it is probably reasonable to make sure you return them.

Are Prescription Errors Getting Fewer?

Handwritten prescriptions with illegible writing resulting in errors, such as too much medication in your prescription are now becoming less of a threat. Mainly as electronic prescriptions become the norm.

The FDA is also working to reduce errors from sound-alike or look-alike drugs, analyzing new drug names and medication packaging submitted by manufacturers. They’re also starting to reject them if there’s potential for confusion with existing drugs.

Barcode technology used by pharmacies helps cut down on dispensing errors, like giving the wrong medication, and pharmacy software also helps flag up potential drug interactions and allergy issues.

How to Ensure You Don’t Get Too Much In Your Prescription?

Using a single pharmacy and getting to know your pharmacist, instead of using multiple pharmacies or online drug retailers to price shop for prescription drugs, can really help to ensure you aren’t getting errors in your prescription which may result in too much medication. In addition, a great way to make sure you are taking the proper amount of medication daily is to dispense your medication into a weekly pill container.

prescription errors

What Can Happen If You Take Too Much Medication?

Medication is generally safe if taken as directed. But taking too much of these medications can lead to liver damage, stomach bleeding, and kidney diseases – aside from potential additional adverse side effects. It’s important you only take your medication as instructed and not take any more medication than is normally prescribed.

What Should You Do If You’ve Taken Too Much Medication?

If you think you’ve taken too much medication, call your doctor or seek medical help right away. Signs and symptoms may not be noticeable immediately. Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Burning in the throat or stomach
  • Pain in the stomach
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Fast eye movements
  • Tiredness
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Confusion


Mistakes in your prescription can happen from time to time due to many factors, but always make sure you check your prescription thoroughly before leaving your pharmacy and make sure you take up the service offered to discuss your medication and any possible prescription errors.

If you do receive too much medication in your prescription any time after leaving your chosen pharmacy provider, be sure to alert them and return any extra medication. If you’re unable to afford medication, or if you need help accessing your medications for an affordable price, get in touch with us anytime, we are always happy to help.