Prescription drug errors made by the health care system can cause significant patient harm, injury and even death.
The pharmaceutical industry is responsible for prolonging and saving the lives of many people worldwide. Ongoing research and development continues to reveal new medications that treat chronic ailments and decrease the longevity of diseases. Pennsylvania residents rely on the expertise of medical professionals to prescribe these medications correctly, so that they may experience the benefits. Yet when these lifesaving drugs are taken incorrectly, they can actually harm and even kill people.
Millions of medication errors occur in the U.S. each year, harming more than 1.5 million people and killing an additional 200,000, according to a Fox News report. Many cases go unreported, making it hard to gather an accurate number of drug error injuries and fatalities.
Types of prescription drug errors
Whether health care professionals are administering medication at the hospital or the pharmacy is dispensing pills for a patient to take at home, there are many ways that prescription drug errors can occur. The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports the following as common factors in prescription drug errors:
- Inadequate knowledge or incomplete information about the previous treatment of a patient or the clinical characteristics of a medication.
- Miscommunication between physicians, pharmacists and nurses.
- Improper interpretation of a prescription by a pharmacist.
- Failure to prescribe or administer the right medication, dose or route of administration.
- Failure to notice a potential adverse reaction or potential cross-sensitivity to a medication.
- Dispensing the wrong medication to the wrong patient, or giving the patient the wrong directions on how to properly take the medication.
All of these situations are extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. They may lead to a drug-related adverse event, which can result in preventable patient harm, injury or death, as reported by the FDA.
For example, a physician may write a prescription for Colchicine 1.0 mg. If the pharmacy misreads and inadvertently fills the prescription with Colchicine 10 mg, the patient could die from Colchicine poisoning after ingesting the extreme amount of medication. If a physician recommends that a patient begins a daily Aspirin regimen without checking to see if they are currently taking a blood thinner, it can likewise be fatal.
Methods of decreasing medication errors
Many manufacturers, hospitals, physicians and pharmacists have implemented ways of verifying prescription accuracy. Computerized physician order entry has been successful at eliminating errors, according to Forbes. Hospitals who have implemented the system have seen drug errors decrease by 85 percent. The system allows physicians full access to patient lab information, allergies and other important details when prescribing medications. The technology then checks to verify the accuracy and safety of the prescription order before electronically sending it to the pharmacy.
When to contact an attorney
People who have been injured or have lost a family member due to a prescription drug error may want to consider contacting a medical malpractice attorney. You may be eligible for compensation for additional medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering that you have endured as a result of the error.