Careful labeling and storage of samples and other medications is vital to patient safety. These best practices can help protect your patients and your practice:
1. Separate problematic drugs. Do not store drugs with look-alike names or similar packaging in close proximity to each other. Instead, group samples by class (all migraine medications together, all antihypertensive medications together, and so on). If a medication comes in multiple tablet sizes, use a separate bin for each size to avoid distributing an unintended dosage.
2. Separate external products from internal products. External products such as benzoin and podophyllin should be labeled “for external use only.” Likewise, hemoccult developers and glucose monitoring chemicals should be properly labeled, as they can easily be mistaken for eye drops.
3. Keep the storage area well organized. Shelves should be at eye level with labels facing forward, and the area should be well lit. Designate a staff member to routinely check all medications (including samples), reagents, and other products that carry an expiration date, and discard any that have expired. Label all multiple-dose vials of injectable medication (e.g., lidocaine and vitamin B12) with the date opened and the date the unused product will be discarded (no later than 30 days after opening).
4. Control access to medications. Lock and secure your practice's medication storage area. In addition, keep a log of medications received (the name of the medication, dose, lot number, expiration date, and quantity) and medications dispensed (patient name, medication, dose, lot number, expiration date, and date of dispensing).
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