10 Common Causes of Medication Errors

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, at least one person dies each day and 1.3 million people are harmed by medication errors each year in America. There are a wide range of causes for these errors. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medication error, you may be entitled to reparation.

Below are some of the most common reasons for medication errors. A good medical malpractice lawyer will be able to advise you and, if you have a medical malpractice case, may be able to help you receive the compensation you deserve.

  1. Mistakes at the Pharmacy – Stressful situations in the pharmacy, such as too many customers at one time, can lead to dispensing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage.
  1. Interactions Between Drugs – Over a quarter of a million seniors are hospitalized each year due to adverse reactions between prescribed medications and over-the-counter medications.
  1. Inappropriate Prescribing – The over-prescribing of controlled pain medications is a good example of inappropriate prescribing. Millions of prescriptions are written for controlled opioids each year, even when a non-addictive over-the-counter anti-iflammatory would be sufficient.
  1. Look-Alike Products – Products that are in similar-looking packages but are used for very different medical problems can easily be confused. Often different medications are stacked closely together in a storage area. If they have similar packaging, the wrong one can easily be taken from the shelf and dispensed.
  1. Drugs with Similar Names – Mistakes are made when drugs have similar names. For example, Avinza and Evista can be easily confused.
  1. Abbreviation Errors – There are many medical abbreviations. If a practitioner is not careful, the wrong medication or dosage can be given. Oxycodone can be confused with oxycodone XR (extended release), for example. Even though these drugs are essentially the same, the pills release the drug at different intervals, and this can produce very different results.
  1. Dosage Errors – For example, it would be easy to confuse mL with mg, which are different doses entirely. A potent medicine could be dispensed as “qid” (4 times daily) instead of “qd” (once daily), which could cause a fatal overdose.
  1. Improperly Administered – Each drug is designed to be given in a particular way. Some are taken by mouth, some in the muscle and some in the vein. Some medications are designed to be administered slowly, others quickly. If a medication is given incorrectly, the patient could suffer harm.
  1. Failing to Document – If a hospital medical practitioner fails to record that a medication was given, the next shift worker would assume that the medication was not administered and give another dose. This would result in overdosing the patient.
  1. Poor Communication – If a prescription is written with unclear handwriting or a verbal order is not understood or communicated to the letter, a medication error can easily occur.

Standard medical protocol recognizes these five precautions when administering medications: the right patient, the right drug, the right time, the right dose, and the right route of administration. If any one of these protocols are not adhered to, a medication error has occurred.

However, be aware that a medication error does not necessarily mean that you have a medical malpractice case. A documentable harm must be shown. This harm could be that the victim was hospitalized, made sicker, incurred additional hospital bills, or lost time on the job.

If you believe that you or a loved one was harmed by a medication, contact a medical malpractice lawyer today to discuss your situation. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]