Nailing Your Marketing Scheme for Various Demographics

A marketing strategy is only as good as the audience to which it caters. If you’re able to identify your target audience by a single or group of characteristics — age, gender, location or education level, for example — you can get more out of every single marketing dollar you spend.

That’s because more targeted marketing equals more success. Plus, there’s evidence to suggest that customers actually prefer it over a randomized strategy. Personalized marketing is what sets modern advertising apart from the incredibly broad-spanning world of print ads and TV spots of the past. Gone are the days of casting a wide net; today, it’s all about personalization.

All our favorite marketing and advertising platforms have rapidly expanded audience-specific features in the past year. For example, Google recently extended its in-market audience targeting feature (a tool that lets you target audiences based on purchase intent signals) to search campaigns, and Facebook unveiled new tools that let marketers engage with specific Facebook Communities.

In other words, all the platforms you use to market your brand already know that demographic segmentation is key. And if you’re a modern marketer, there’s a good chance you already have all these tools at your disposal. But you should be applying these principles to every aspect of your marketing campaign, from your product labels to your Facebook ads to the “About Us” section on your website.

Target Market Vs. Demographic

Although you’ll often see the phrases “target market” and “demographic” used interchangeably, there are a few key differences that you should note before you hone in on a segmented marketing strategy. A demographic, specifically called demographic segmenting in marketing, encompasses the broader characteristics of your market. Observable socioeconomic characteristics such as age and education level qualify as demographics.

On the other hand, your target market refers to your actual, current customers as well as the high-value potential customers you’d like to target. In most cases, if you put a little time into identifying your target market, you’ll see that many of your customers share similar demographics. Still, some companies must market to a range of different demographics in order to reach the most valuable customers within a target market.

Identifying Key Demographics

Defining your target market should be your first step in creating a tailored marketing scheme with a high return on investment (ROI). You simply can’t waste time or money with too much trial and error. Instead, putting a small amount of your marketing budget towards defining your target market early on in the process will go a long way to ensuring that you spend your dollars wisely in the future.

 

  • Do Some Market Research — If you’ve got the time, the best way to gather intel on your most valuable potential customers is to do some in-depth market research. Private market research firms, eCommerce store plug-ins and other tools will help you study who, what and when drives your business. Once you’ve got a good grip on who is most likely to engage with your brand, you want to create customer profiles based on the results.
  • Create Customer Profiles — Where market research should provide a wide-angle view of your target market, customer profiles help you get super specific. The best way to get to know your customer base is to group audience members together by demographic criteria and psychographic criteria. The first should cover age, location, gender, education, ethnic background and other defining traits, while the second should cover hobbies, values, attitudes and other key characteristics.
  • Study Your Competition — If there are already well-established brands in your arena, you’re actually in luck. These companies may have already done the heavy lifting for you, especially if they’ve been around for longer. Competing companies can provide insight on brand voice — look at their social media pages and website to see their marketing messaging — pricing, customer experience (read those reviews) and more.

Marketing to Specific Demographics

Now that we’ve covered the basics of demographic segmentation, let’s take a deep dive into the actual mechanics. How do you implement all this knowledge in a way that helps boost every marketing dollar? At the end of the day, it comes down to getting to know your target demographic and understanding how they behave, especially in terms of consumerism and digital behaviors.

But before you start to implement your strategy, it’s a good idea to zoom out and take a look at your overall goals. You’ll want to spend money where you think it’ll have the most impact, of course, and identifying key goals will help you zero-in on that. Some goals of your strategy might be to increase foot traffic in your retail store, to create hype around a specific product, to boost your social media followers or to improve customer ratings.

Marketing by Age

As obvious as it may seem, your strategy will look very different if you’re marketing to millennials than if you’re vying for the attention of the aging population. But things get even more nuanced if you have a hyper-specific target age group. For example, if you’re developing a mobile app or pharmaceutical for menopause sufferers, you have to garner a deep understanding of consumer behaviors within a very narrow age window.

But there’s a very simple method to understanding consumers at any age, and luckily, there’s tons of research to help marketers understand buyer behavior from generation Z to baby boomers and beyond. If you’re able to zero-in on a relatively broad window — say, a range of 10 to 15 years — then you can study those buyer personas closely and apply their preferences to your strategy.

  • Know Where They Shop — Even though mobile shopping is at its peak, there’s still some disparity in terms of who shops online and where they do it. Interestingly, more middle-aged consumers shop online, but younger consumers are more likely to use their mobile phones to pull the trigger. What’s more, studies show that those aged 65 and older need to see, feel and touch items before they make a purchase. If you’re an eCommerce store marketing to this demographic, it’s important that you implement (and tout) a liberal exchange policy that gives consumers an in-person experience.
  • Know How They Shop — Understand how your target age group shops — and we’re talking digging much deeper than digital versus brick-and-mortar — will help you tailor your marketing strategy to their needs. Some things to look into include their favorite brands, attitudes towards quality and how they prioritize customer service in terms of value. Surprisingly, more millennials shop around for the best deals. One study showed that 71 percent of millennials visit multiple stores for the best deals, compared to just 57 percent of baby boomers. Your target audience should guide your pricing and help you edge out competitors.
  • Know What They Care About — Measuring your target age group’s values, ethics and principles will also help you create a compelling campaign that uses budget wisely. Different generations have different opinions about corporate social responsibility (CSR). In fact, over half of millennials said they checked packaging labels to ensure positive social and environmental impact, compared with just 12 percent of baby boomers. If you’re trying to reach millennials, it’s not a bad idea to prioritize and promote your CSR efforts on product labels.

Marketing by Gender

From your market research, you should be able to determine whether your product or service is favored more by men or women or that gender has no bearing on purchase intent at all. And this is a valuable piece of knowledge since gender marketing can help you make more for your marketing money. But it’s a delicate topic, and one that you have to enter with a tuned-in approach.

More than half of women believe that gender-specific ads are outdated, and female consumers have made clear time and time again: they don’t need bright pink earplugs, writing instruments or snacks… so stop making them! With that said, women and men have different purchasing habits and interact with brands in different ways. This is the research to focus on when marketing by gender.

  • Don’t Promote Gender Stereotypes — Nothing sinks a brand’s positive identity faster than stereotyped messaging. And companies that overcompensate — ads and marketing messaging that they believe empowers women — don’t always succeed either. Gender stereotyping can ruin your brand image by being plain offensive, and it can also hurt your bottom line because it creates a disconnect between your product and a consumer’s genuine experience.
  • Look at Their Needs — Men and women report different shopping challenges from one another. Women cite fit and sizing issues as eCommerce roadblocks more often than men, but they’re still more comfortable shopping online than their male counterparts. Interestingly, studies show that women now make more buying decisions than men in American households. In fact, they’re now responsible for almost 100 percent of home furnishing purchases.
  • Consider Gender Pivoting — Even some of the most traditionally male brands (Harley Davidson, for example) have begun to “gender pivot,” meaning they’re expanding their marketing efforts to target women. Indeed, this is one of those rare cases where taking a broad marketing approach — and maybe investing in a little bit of A/B testing along the way — could actually help you rack up more sales.

Marketing by Location

One of the simplest ways to reach your target demographic is through location-based marketing. If you operate in only a select few cities — or if you know that, say, your holiday swimsuits aren’t likely to sell out in the Northeast — then there’s no use throwing marketing dollars at regions that just don’t care. You have to distribute them to areas packed with potential customers.

  • The good news is most of your everyday marketing tools — Analytics, AdWords, Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms — already allow you to segment audiences by location. That makes it really easy to make impressions in specific pockets of the world. But there are more location-based marketing tips that can help you ramp up this strategy.
  • Understand the Area — Especially important if you’re marketing to a relatively small area (such as a single city or state), understanding the spirit and history of a place can help you create location-specific ads that feel authentic. Consumers know immediately whether a brand is an outsider trying to look like an insider, and such messaging often comes off as contrived and inauthentic. And everybody knows authenticity is everything in modern marketing!
  • Use Geo-Location — According to the Local Search Association, the click-through rate for geo-targeted mobile display ads was higher than the industry standard in almost all verticals! If this all sounds like meaningless marketing jargon, it’s actually pretty simple. Targeting consumers with ads based on their location — for example, Chipotle using geo-targeted ads in areas with a high number of Chipotle stores — is an excellent strategy for brick-and-mortar businesses and restaurants.
  • Keep it Mobile — Optimizing every single facet of your marketing strategy for mobile users is undoubtedly a good move, but it’s especially helpful when you’re marketing by physical location. Some ways to integrate mobile marketing and location marketing include creating location-based hashtags and geotags on social media, providing incentive for customers to geotag your business and, of course, creating mobile ads that are targeted to a specific area.

It’s All About the Consumer

These are just a few examples of how you can use a targeted marketing strategy to grow your bottom line, improve customer satisfaction and boost positive opinions of your brand. At the end of the day, consumers no longer want — but demand a personalized shopping experience. Step number one is ensuring that they’re paired with the products that are actually relevant to them. These tips will help you keep the consumer at the forefront for a solid marketing strategy.

It’s Moving Day! The Ultimate Checklist for Your Big Move

Moving is one of the most necessary and stressful times in our lives. Whether you are moving to a new house or a new office, there are a lot of tasks that must be accomplished and many things that may be forgotten. This process can be very time consuming and frustrating.

This stress can be alleviated by preparing a good, solid plan. This way you can approach your moving day with an organized plan in place and a clear head. Regardless of what your moving situation is, it is important to start early and create a checklist to help you stay organized and efficient.

Try to avoid common mistakes people make when moving. Common mistakes include forgetting to prepare your new space, failing to label boxes, and forgetting to measure furniture and large items. These mistakes can lead to a disastrous and chaotic moving day.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you with your move, whether you are traveling a short or far distance.

Check Your Calendar

Whether you’re old school and prefer a calendar you can write on or an electronic calendar, it is important to start planning your move as early as possible. Preferably give yourself at least a month to get organized.

Utilize technology to help ease some of the stress. There are several great moving apps that include a pre-filled moving timeline and are a wonderful resource.

Create a realistic timeline and allow yourself plenty of time for each task, as packing away your contents will often take more time than you budgeted. Add each task to your calendar, or follow along with the checklist in your app. This will alleviate the stress you are feeling and allow you to focus on your future. It will also ensure that your moving day runs smoothly.

Prepare Your New Space

Many people overlook this crucial step. Make sure you prepare the new, empty space where you are relocating. Grab a bucket of your go-to cleaning supplies, a vacuum, and head to your new space.

It is especially important to clean the walls, floors, and baseboards before moving things in. Tiny crevices and corners are likely to trap dust. While you are there take note of any cracks or other aesthetic issues. Make sure you address these issues with the seller or property owner before you move in.

Take Out Your Measuring Tape

When you are looking at an empty bedroom, it will appear much larger than it does when you move in with your king-sized bed and your 16-drawer antique dresser. You need to account for this change in perspective by measuring each room and each piece of furniture that you intend to bring with you.

In addition to your tape measure, bring along a pencil, level, and paper. Measure properly by starting your calculations at the zero mark on your tape measure.

Once you are done measuring each room and each large piece of furniture, it is time to measure doorways. Make sure there is enough room for furniture to fit through the door opening.

This is a Good Time to Purge

After you have finished measuring, there are likely to be large items, appliances or furniture that simply cannot fit in your new space. Many of us amass too many possessions during our lifetimes. Most of us have at least a few items of clothing or pairs of shoes we don’t wear anymore. If they are old and destroyed, it is probably best to just discard them.

Use this time to purge any unnecessary belongings or oversized items. If the items are new or gently used, donating them is always a possibility.

Reach out to friends, post items for sale online, or consider donating to a local charity. Several charities will even come pick up the items.

Buy Packing and Moving Supplies

Moving is an expensive endeavor. It is best to plan and purchase moving supplies early, so you aren’t scrambling to get the necessities at the last minute. If you are packing yourself, visit your local grocery or wine store and ask if they have any free boxes you can use.

You can also purchase moving boxes and packing supplies from your moving company. Other essentials you may need are packing paper, foam, or packing peanuts to protect fragile items like glasses, silverware, and fine china.

Many movers experience a moment of panic when they realize they have run out of tape and need to take time out of their busy, moving day to go and buy some more. Avoid this issue and purchase a tape gun and plenty of refills. Hardware stores typically sell these in sets of two or three, so it is a good idea to purchase them there.

Printed labels are crucial. You must organize each box and its contents to make moving day and unpacking in your new place simple. Prepare labels and have them ready to go prior to sealing each box. There are many different types of printed labels to choose from, so you should have no problem getting the printed labels that fit your needs.

Buy New Furniture in Advance

Most furniture stores do not have the items readily available in the store, and they will have to custom-make the pieces or ship them in from their warehouse somewhere else. Even if they have the pieces in stock, most places do not offer same-day delivery. Prepare furniture shipments at least a month in advance, especially if the pieces need to be custom-made. This way, you also have a better chance of getting a delivery date and time that works best for you.

Set Up Your Utilities Before You Move

It would be devastating to move into a new place and not have electricity, gas, and water, or no internet to stream your favorite Netflix shows. Make sure you make the appropriate phone calls to your new utility providers to ensure your utilities are set up prior to your move-in date. Keep in mind that many local utility companies make you wait a few days until your electricity or other utilities can be turned on.

Change Your Address

Be prepared for your move by ordering sheeted labels with your new address printed on them. This is the best way to ensure you are directly informing your contacts you have changed your address.

Keep track of any incoming mail you receive prior to your move. Immediately send these contacts back a labeled envelope informing them of your upcoming move. Additionally, you will need to send a similar notice to everyone in your contact list.

It is best practice to also make sure to change your address with the United States Postal Service (USPS). This only takes a few minutes online and costs a nominal fee of one dollar. Of course, you can also still go to your local post office. It is important to do this at least a week in advance of your move because it takes USPS a few business days to process the request and start forwarding your mail to your new address.

It is not only important to notify USPS about your upcoming move. There are numerous other people and businesses who may need to know. You should also advise doctors, schools, and any other professional organization you are affiliated with that you are moving and need to change your address. Make sure you change your address for magazine and other mail subscriptions, too.

Safety First

Many times, the place you are moving has been inhabited before, and the previous tenants may still have keys. It is best practice to change your locks and set up a security system if you think you need it. Many companies that sell home and office security systems offer great incentives for new accounts.

Pack a Separate Box for Moving Day

You should always have a box with essentials you will need while you are moving and unpacking. Consider this similar to your airplane carry-on bag. Bathroom essentials, medications, and clothing are the main items you will need to pack in this box.

Pack It All Up

Packing can seem like the most daunting part of the move. It is physically demanding and emotionally stressful. Having what you need in advance will be a huge help when moving into a new home or office. Organize boxes by room and category. For example, your obscure electronics like a router, TV remote, DVD player, and the like should be assembled in the same boxes designated for your living room.

It is arguably better to separate heavy items in smaller boxes. This makes them more manageable to move, and it is also safer for you to move them. If you have lightweight clothing, leave them in your dresser. Just make sure that your drawers are taped shut during your move. If having the drawers in the piece makes it too heavy, remove them. These tips will make unpacking a lot less difficult when you get to your new place.

Label Everything

Printed labels are essential to the moving process. You can never be too organized when moving. They will help you easily determine what is in each box, and what room those boxes belong in.

Printed labels make things much more convenient, and there are endless options to choose from. Sheeted labels are available and helpful when you are printing numerous labels with similar text. Consider colored labels if you would like your printed labels color-coded by room. More complex direct thermal labels are available if you are moving to or within a very cold state, as they can withstand the cooler temperatures.

Printed labels also help you prioritize unpacking your belongings. A box labeled “kitchen essentials” is likely a higher priority than one labeled for the attic or basement. Printed labels make it easy to glance at a box and know immediately whether it is a priority.

Protect the Fragile Items

No one wants to get to their new home or office and find their prized framed photo of a 70’s Grateful Dead poster shattered at the bottom of a box. Buying packing paper and bubble wrap is the best way to prevent this from happening during the move.

Packing supplies and extra padding will protect your valuables. This helps prevent the emotions that can come with breaking something that has sentimental value or is one-of-a-kind. Make sure your fragile belongings, especially glass, are wrapped up and sealed tightly with tape.

Additionally, you should have printed labels marked “fragile” ready at your disposal when packing. This will ensure your box is clearly labeled and not to be mishandled or roughly moved around when packing or unpacking. Make sure to separate your fragile items into these designated boxes. If using a moving company, you should keep these fragile boxes with you in your personal vehicle or ask the movers to place them in a designated space within the moving truck.

Moving Day is Here

When moving day comes, gather your supplies. Make sure you keep your calendar and a checklist on hand to ensure you are handling each necessary item as intended.

Recruit movers, friends, or family to assist with the move. It is best to work your way from one end of the space to the other, going room by room. Also bring along a toolbox, box cutters, as well as a dolly or cart.

Make sure you wrap heavy furniture in moving blankets to ensure the corners are not damaged in the move. An alternative is to intentionally leave out fluffy towels and comforters to aid in this process by using them to wrap smaller items and pieces of furniture.

Be mindful to angle furniture vertically rather than horizontally. This will aid in the process of loading and unloading bulky items. Lifting straps are another solid investment that will make moving furniture much easier.

Conclusion

Moving is extremely difficult, but smart planning can help alleviate the stress. Prepare in advance so you can make the appropriate phone calls to your contacts, utilities, and post office.

Printed labels are an essential part of moving, as this process requires an enormous amount of organization. Consider what type of printed label best suits your needs: direct thermal labels for high heat or humid conditions, colored labels for greater visual organization, or sheeted labels for those requiring a greater quantity.

Keep your moving checklist or app in-hand on moving day, and follow these tips to ensure a successful move. This way you will be less stressed out and more likely to be focusing on your future home or office.

Industry Spotlight: Pharmaceuticals

The pharmaceutical industry, a significant sector of our economy, works to develop, produce, and market a variety of pharmaceutical drugs for use as medications. The scope of these medications covers everything from itchiness to end-stage cancer drugs.

The companies may deal in brand name or generic medical devices and medications. To keep the public safe, the federal and state governments subject the companies and products to various regulations and laws that govern the processes of patenting, testing, safety, efficacy, and marketing.

THE GLOBAL PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

Europe and the United States house the leading pharmaceutical corporations. On sales from prescriptions alone, Pfizer, based in NYC, is the world leader. Sales during 2016 reached almost $53 billion. Other leaders in the U.S. include Merck, Johnson & Johnson (one of the world’s most widely recognized labels), and AbbVie.

The big five out of Europe are AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline in the U.K., Roche, and Novartis in Switzerland, and Sanofi in France.

As a global sector, the massive importance of the industry is undeniable. Total revenue worldwide in 2014 surpassed one trillion USD for the first time in history. The biggest portion of these revenues come from North America, due in most part to the U.S. holding a large leadership role.

The largest portion of revenue from the pharmaceutical industry comes from patented, branded medicines. In 2016, over $16 billion in global revenue was generated by the anti-inflammatory drug, Humira.

Drugs for cancer, or oncologics, continue to lead revenue numbers among the therapeutic drug classes. Global revenue was just shy of $79 billion in 2015.

Dependence on research and development is more important in the pharmaceutical industry than in any other sector. The majority of new substances introduced in pharmacology trace their roots back to the United States. It is vitally important for new drugs to be invented regularly to combat losses from patent protection.

An excellent example of this is the most commonly prescribed drug in the United States, Lipitor. Used to combat high-cholesterol, it is the all-time best-selling prescription medication and earned Pfizer $81 billion by 2012. When their patent expired, rather than lose an estimated 80% of sales, Pfizer made an unprecedented move, working with prescription process companies and insurers to cut a deal that would make Lipitor available for the same price as the expected generic versions.

 

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Local apothecaries were the beginning of today’s modern pharmaceutical industry. During the early 1800s, botanical drugs were dispensed frequently, especially quinine and morphine for pain. In the later part of the century, the development of synthetic chemical methods started the growth in pharmacology science, allowing scientists and researchers to create new drugs and structurally change the composition of each discovery.

By the mid-1800s, apothecaries began to step away from their traditional role as dispensaries and focus on manufacturing drugs for wholesale. Pharmaceutical industry giants such as Eli Lilly, Merck, Upjohn (currently part of the Pfizer Group), Abbott Laboratories, Burroughs-Wellcome (currently under the umbrella of GlaxoSmithKline), and Hoffman-La Roche got their start as local apothecaries.

 

PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCT LABELING

One of the most crucial aspects of dispensing any pharmaceutical product is ensuring it is labeled correctly. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), compiled a sequence of regulatory steps in the 1970s and set them in place to ensure all labeling on prescription drugs is concise and clear.

Every label needs to be in compliance with federal and state regulations. All necessary information must be clearly and correctly conveyed regarding proper product storage, a method of administration, and dosage instructions.

Label quality is of high importance because it relates to how the patient perceives the product’s value. If they believe the product is inferior due to shoddy labeling, there could be dangerous implications on the patient’s prescribed regimen compliance and their proper use of the medication.

Regulations currently in place by the FDA require labels to incorporate extensive product, safety, and quality information. It would be difficult to imagine what the pharmaceutical industry would be like without these regulations. Medicines and other drugs produced by manufacturers would be of no use to anyone if they were labeled incorrectly.

 

LABEL INFORMATION REQUIRED BY LAW

Many pharmacies work with their label supplier to pre-print their phone number, address, and name on their prescription labels to save time. The following eight pieces of information must also appear on the label as per regulations:

  1. The full, legal name of the patient.
  2. The name of the medical professional prescribing the medication.
  3. The initial date of dispensing.
  4. The serial number of the prescription.
  5. Complete usage directions and any applicable warnings.
  6. The beyond-use date (or expiration date).
  7. The name of the dispensing pharmacist.
  8. The name and strength of the drug (in compound prescriptions the active ingredients must be listed).

An auxiliary label containing the statement, “Caution: Federal law prohibits the transfer of this drug to any person other than the patient for whom it was prescribed” is also needed for controlled substances under schedules II, III, and IV.

Recommended label information included the allowable number of refills and either the volume of the product or total dosing units dispensed.

 

PROPER FORMATTING FOR LABELING OF PHARMACEUTICALS

In general, most labels on prescription drugs follow the same format so that it is easy for the patient to recognize quickly where the important information is. An example is shown below:

Bayside, Queens, NYC 11361
891-0046
Rx # 987654 – Dr. No Name
Jerry Cann – 4/4/04
Take two tablets every three to four hours as needed for pain.
Acetaminophen 500 mg, Codeine sulfate 20 mg/tablet (#60)
0 refills; Discard after 4/30/04
Dispensed by C. Yulater R.Ph.

 

GENERAL LABELING GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW

To ensure labels are concise and understandable by all patients, there are some guidelines used when printing actual prescription labels.

  1. Do not use abbreviations
    For example. “Take one tablet three times a day,” instead of “Take one tab three times.”
  2. Always use words in place of numbers.
    For example, “Take two capsules every day,” not “Take 2 capsules every day.”
  3. When articulating quantities, it is essential the patient is familiar with the prescribed unit, and they are likely to have a device at home appropriate for measuring it properly. For example, “Take one tablespoon every six to eight hours,” not “Take 15 ml every six to eight hours.” In certain circumstances, an exact volume may be critical for the safety of the patient, such as 1.5 ml. When this happens, the pharmacist is responsible for providing the patient with a measuring device properly calibrated for the volume unit.
  4. When the prescription is not intended to be used orally, the administration route needs to be specified. For example, “Apply cream liberally to affected area.”
  5. When it comes to the dispensing of bulk medications, like creams, suspensions, solutions, ointments, or emulsions, a percentage is used to express the strength of the active ingredients. For example, Hydrocortisone cream 2.5% is commonly seen on prescription labels.

 

LABELING GONE WRONG

Even when labels are correctly done, problems arise often. When it comes to following the instructions printed on medication labels, only 33% of people do it correctly according to studies. There are 66% of Americans who never bother to take any of the medications they are prescribed, and of these, almost 50% do not fully understand the directions.

Not only are these numbers astounding, but they can have fatal consequences. Many people subscribe to the theory that “two is better than one” and take twice the number of prescribed drugs. While this may only result in some nausea if you are lucky, when it comes to controlled drugs, there is a real danger that you may die.

Over 1.3 million Americans suffer some type of injury from a prescription error every year. When patients pick up a prescription from their pharmacy, they are trusting that the information they are receiving is accurate and will keep them safe from harm. They need to believe the drug they are being given is going to make them feel better.

The pharmacist is the only link between the person who prescribed the medication and you. As such, they are your only line of defense.

It is no secret the healthcare system in America is overworked and understaffed. Doctors are human, and they do make the occasional mistake, especially when they are nearing the end of a 48-hour ER rotation. A good pharmacist notices when something doesn’t seem right in dosing or strength and contacts the doctor to confirm it.

However, with the constant pressure to fill pharmaceutical prescriptions as quickly as possible, errors do occur. Pharmacy staff rushing to get medications done are eventually going to miss something. Whether it is stocking a drug that has expired or incorrectly labeling a bottle, the results could be catastrophic, including poisoning, overdose, toxicity, or death.

 

REPERCUSSIONS

Even with the best prevention, some errors you can never see coming. Consider a doctor who prescribes an antibiotic for a child who has never had them before. If they have an allergic reaction, either uncomplicated or severe, there was no way to predict this outcome.

Medical malpractice suits are the dread of every physician, but not every mistake is automatically a malpractice case. If the doctor were to prescribe an incorrect medication or dosage and the patient suffered no ill effects, there is no legal case for malpractice.

They would very likely lose the patient though, and since there is a good chance the patient will caution others from going to this doctor, their reputation and organization could be negatively impacted.

Pharmacies fill billions of prescriptions annually. The most common mistakes made in the pharmacy include failing to identify drug allergies or interactions, giving prescriptions to the wrong patient, confusing drugs that look or sound similar and getting the label right but the contents wrong.

Pharmaceutical products save lives but only when they are prescribed, dispensed, and used correctly. One trend making this easier is the increase in the use of electronic prescriptions. This eliminates the problem of the illegible scrawl doctors are so famous for with handwritten prescription.

The evolution in barcode technology is also working to reduce the number of mistakes in dispensing, along with advances in software to flag allergy issues or possible drug interactions.

The FDA is also taking steps to reduce mistakes originating from drugs that look or sound the same. Packaging and new drug names from manufacturers are being analyzed and rejected if the potential exists for confusion with drugs currently on the market.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Every time you go and pick up a prescription, don’t just pay for it and leave. Take the time to open the bag at the counter and look at it. Ask any questions you may have and confirm that what you have is what is supposed to be there. Just because your name is on the outside of the bag’s label, the containers inside the bag may be labeled with someone else’s name.

Most people are too busy to take the time and accept the pharmacist’s offer of counseling before they leave the store. This can end up being a critical mistake. Not only does the pharmacist inform you of the crucial information relating to the drugs, but it also presents a second opportunity to catch any mistakes.

Don’t be shy to ask exactly what the drug is for and how it works. Find out how long you need to take it and the exact way it needs to be taken. Also, ask about any potential side effects and interactions with other medications you may already be on. It is always a good idea to carry an updated listed of your current prescriptions and dosages so you can easily discuss any issues with a pharmacist or physician.

If you catch an error in your pharmaceutical prescription, it is essential you make the pharmacy aware of their mistake. By doing this, you will give them the opportunity to document the mistake, determine the mistake’s source, take steps to correct the error, and prevent the same thing from happening to someone else in the future.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The importance of pharmaceutical products of all types being properly labeled can never be overstated enough. Almost everything has potential side effects, even innocuous over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like Tylenol or Benadryl.

Too many people never take the time to read OTC labels for their safety information. Did you check the bottle the last time you bought Aspirin? There are laws in place to make sure you receive all the information you need to make an informed decision – it is up to you to read it.

With the potential hazards that exist, taking the extra few minutes to be certain you understand your medication and how to take it is critical. Carefully read everything, confirm that you understand it properly, and always ask questions. It could honestly save your life!