Be Alert for Medication Errors

Aug 22, 2015

Rarely a year passes without the announcement of some new won- der drug to treat another disease. While more and better drugs are usually considered a good thing, the increase in the number of drugs available and in the number of drugs the average person takes has led to an explosion in the number of errors made in prescriptions.

These errors can take all kinds of forms and can occur in many different ways. Sometimes a drug other than the one prescribed is provided, or the correct drug is pro- vided in the wrong dosage. Some- times a drug is prescribed that interacts negatively with another drug the person is taking and the patient is not warned of the danger. Sometimes the mistake is made by the doctor prescribing the drug, sometimes by the pharmacist filling the prescription and sometimes by the person administering the prescribed drug. Mistakes can occur in hospitals, nursing homes, and the corner drugstore. Regardless of the many different ways that prescription problems can occur, they all share one thing: They can be serious and potentially deadly.

A recent study concluded that out of 3 billion prescriptions filled each year, 51.5 million of them contain some kind of error. Although reliable statistics are hard to come by, these errors lead to thousands of unnecessary hospitalizations and hundreds of unnecessary deaths.

Interestingly, many consider the primary reason for the rise in errors to be financial-the doctors who write the prescriptions, the pharmacists who fill them, and the nurses who often administer them are pressured to serve more patients in less time, increasing profits, but also in-creasing the risk of an error. Others point to the rise in the marketing of drugs directly to patients. Patients are more likely to go to their doctors and demand a prescription for some drug they saw on television, leading to more prescriptions and more chances for error.

Several solutions to this problem have been suggested. The first s also the easiest: Slow down and make sure the prescription is correct. The second is to install more safeguards, such as having another person check the prescription. An- other solution is to make sure that different drugs or different dosages don’t look similar, reducing the chance that the wrong bottle will be used. Y et another suggested solution is to make sure that pills are always available in many dosages, which will prevent people from having to break their pills into halves or quarters, possibly exceeding the intended dosage.

Cases involving prescription errors, which can involve claims of negligence, medical malpractice, and products liability, and which require a great deal of expert testimony, can be very complicated to pursue. If you or someone you know has been injured due to a prescription error, call us.