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AHRQ and the National Council on Patient Information and Education publish new consumer guide on reducing medication errors

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) have released a new resource, Your Medicine: Play It Safe, to help consumers use prescription medicines safely. The 12-page brochure, available in English and Spanish, includes a detachable, pocket-sized medicine record form that can be personalized.

Medication errors can occur when a patient receives the wrong medicine, takes an incorrect dose, takes a medicine at the wrong time, or inappropriately combines prescription, nonprescription, and/or other medicines, food, or beverages. The new brochure outlines four steps to help patients use prescription medicines safely:

  • Give your health care team important information.
  • Get the facts about your medicine.
  • Stay with your treatment plan.
  • Keep a record of your medicines.

Authors of an AHRQ-supported study published in the March 5, 2003, Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than 1.9 million medication errors occurred among Medicare patients from 1999 to 2000. More than one-fourth of the errors were preventable. Most errors associated with preventable adverse drug events occurred at the prescribing and monitoring stages, and problems with patient adherence to prescription instructions contributed to errors in more than 20 percent of cases, according to the study.

Publication of Your Medicine: Play It Safe continues a partnership between AHRQ and NCPIE that began nearly a decade ago when NCPIE developed Prescription Medicines and You: A Consumer Guide, which was published in six languages. NCPIE is a nonprofit coalition of more than 130 organizations committed to promoting the appropriate use of medicines through improved communication between patients and health care professionals.

Select for the online English version of the new Guide or go to

Select for the online Spanish version.

Print copies are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

For information on purchasing bulk copies of the brochure, contact NCPIE via E-mail to or call them at (301) 656-8565.

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