It’s believed that poor labeling is the leading cause for medication errors, but we’re only starting to understand the problem. The FDA has had almost 30,000 reports of medication errors since 1992, but those reports are voluntary, and they cover both human and veterinary medicine. That means the real number of errors is probably much higher. Fortunately, studies on medication labels and their accuracy are starting to give us a better picture of how design changes can avoid these errors so your patients get the medicine they need.
Making a Better Label Layout
The FDA requires the following information to be included with veterinary medicine:
- Name, address and telephone number for your office
- Identification of the animal being treated, typically including the client name and pet name
- Number identifying the prescription
- Date the medication was prescribed
- Date the medication was dispensed
- Name of the medication, its active ingredient and the quantity dispensed
- Dosage, duration and route of administration
- Number of refills
- Expiration date
- Warnings and special instructions
That’s a lot of information, and it all has to be on the medicine bottle or on a paper presented to the patient with the medication. By prioritizing the most important pieces of information, you can make your labels easier to follow.
When clients look at a prescription label, they’re probably looking for dosage instructions. To make this information easier to find, make sure there’s plenty of space for instructions, and to add something to make them pop like bold print, a colored outline or a colored background.
The second most looked-at item on this list is information about the medication itself. This includes the drug name, number of refills, number of doses and expiration date. The same strategies used with instructions can be used here, but a different format should be used to set them apart. For example, if you use a box to outline the instructions, use a different background to highlight the medication information.
If the client has a question, they need to have ready access to your contact information. Having your labels pre-printed with your pharmacy or clinic information will ensure it’s always easy to read, even if the rest of the label gets smeared.
You probably keep your own medicine in a cabinet, but pet owners will store and use their pets’ medicine wherever it’s convenient, making it more likely that the label will be damaged. Adding a label shield will keep the ink from smearing and the label from wearing off.
The “Time” and “Times Daily”
If you’re prescribed a medicine that you should take twice daily, when would you take those doses? Most of us know we should space the doses out, taking them every 12 hours or as close to that as we can manage. However, a surprising number of people will interpret this instruction to mean that two doses should be taken during the day, but they can be taken whenever its convenient. That could mean putting two doses in a treat and feeding it to their pet all at once or shifting medication times around from day to day.
To see how to make dosing instructions clear, just look at our GL-414 label . This breaks down the dose according to method and measurement, whether it’s several capsules, teaspoons or drops, or measured out in CCs using a syringe. Frequency is expressed with two lines: “Every _____ Hours” and “_____ Time Daily for _____ Days.” This takes the ambiguity out of dosing.
Make Warnings and Special Instructions Clear
Is the medication poisonous to humans? Does it need to be handled in a certain way to prevent it from spoiling? Does the client need to schedule an exam or call the prescription in ahead of time to get a refill? If you print this information on the label, it can be easy to miss. Moving this information to a brightly colored sticker helps it stand out and makes it easy to include. These labels are handy for the following issues:
- Handling the medicine correctly, including storage and administration
- Side effects from the drug, including increased thirst
- Instructing the client to give the entire prescription even if their pet seems better, as is often a problem with antibiotics
- Special instructions for refills, whether they need to be called in ahead of time or will only be issued after an exam
Reduce Medication Errors with Help from Positive Impressions
Positive Impressions LLC has helped veterinary clinics build client relationships and care for their animals for over a decade. We offer custom printing services so you can have your clinic information pre-printed on labels and prescription pads, and we have products that can improve your medication labels including warning stickers and shields. We also have prescription bags and tote bags to help patients keep their items together when they leave your clinic. Not sure what label to buy for your printer? No problem! Our handy Label Wizard will help you quickly find the labels you need. Make sure to stop by our website for the latest products and specials we have available.