When you go to the hospital, you trust that the doctors and health professionals will work together to take proper care of you. You take the medications they give you in their prescribed orders believing it is the correct medication and dose.
But, medical professionals are human, and humans make mistakes. An error in medication type or dose could be harmful, or even deadly. In fact, every year 7,000 to 9,000 people die in the United States due to complications from medication errors.
Read on for more information about prescription errors, and what to do if you or your loved one is a victim.
What are medication Errors?
Medication errors are the wrong use or administration of a medication that harms the patient. Unfortunately, they are most often the result of preventable human error.
How Medication Errors Occur
Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are usually involved in prescribing, dispensing, and administering drugs to patients. Medication errors can happen at any of the following points:
- • When a health professional is writing the drug order
- • When the order is being entered into the computer system
- • When the pharmacist is preparing and/or dispensing the drugs
- • When the medial team is administering the drugs to the patient
What are Common Medication Errors?
You are more likely to suffer because of a health professional’s error while prescribing drugs than any other medication error. Prescription errors account for nearly 50% of all medication errors.
Types of prescription Errors:
Prescription errors can occur because a healthcare provider wrote:
- The wrong type of drug: This may happen when drugs have similar spelling or they sound alike.
- The wrong route of administration: A route of administration is how a drug is taken into the body. Administering drugs the wrong way may reduce their effectiveness or cause harm.
- The wrong dose: Error can occur either by giving a lower or excessive dose.
- The wrong frequency: Frequency refers to how often a medication should be taken.
These are errors that occur in the process of giving you the medications. It can be as a result of:
- Giving you an improper dose—less than you need or an excess
- Wrong route of drug administration
- Giving you the medications meant for another patient
- Administering drugs at the wrong time or omitting doses
- Giving patients drugs they are allergic to because they weren’t asked or the health provider neglected to consider the patient’s history
This includes failing to monitor a patient to gauge their reaction to drugs, or knowing when to stop or switch to a different drug. Monitoring errors also include failing to notice or document a patient’s allergic reaction to drugs or drug interactions.
Drug Preparation Errors
Some prescription drugs need to be formulated or reconstituted before they are given to patients. An example of an error in drug preparation is diluting the medication with a diluent volume that is higher or lower than needed. This is more common in drugs given intravenously.
Why Medication Errors Occur
The general reason medication errors occur is negligence by health providers. These include:
- Distraction: This is one of the most common causes of medication errors. Health providers often work in a high-pressure, high-stress environment. Often, there are lots of patients to care for. A distracted health care provider is more likely to make a mistake.
- Lack of standardized protocol and procedures: Having standard procedures on how drugs are administered, particularly those that have been identified as high-risk, is critical. Lack of proper protocol makes medication errors more probable.
- Fatigue in health care providers: Lots of health workers routinely work long shifts and are often tired. This can compromise their ability to perform and increase the likelihood of error.
- Failing to consider liver and kidney function: A good number of medication errors occur in patients with kidney or liver failure. These patients usually require lower doses, as their bodies may not effectively break down or excrete drugs, which may cause toxicity.
How often do Medication Errors Occur?
Medication errors are quite common. Consider the following rates for medication and prescription errors in the U.S.:
- • Over 7 million patients in the United States experience medication errors every year.
- • The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) receives over 100,000 medication errors reports every year.
- • Medication errors injure over 1.3 million people each year in the U.S.
Symptoms of Medication Errors
Medication errors are usually difficult to spot, because if you are taking medication, you are already dealing with a health condition. However, if you have some of these symptoms, it might be a sign that something has gone wrong:
- Nervous systems damage, which may manifest in loss of feeling, tingling, and paralysis
- Organ damage or organ failure
- Cardiac arrest, stroke, and coma
- Agitation and rapid heartbeat
- Increased body temperature
What to do if a Medication Error Occurs
If you or your loved one have suffered from a medication error, or you suspect it, take the following steps:
Seek medical help: Get medical help to understand exactly what is wrong and to treat any complications you have.
Document the treatment: Take note of the history of your illness and all the treatments you have received. Keep track of the medications, the dosage, and how and when you take them. Also, take note of the names of medical providers that attended to you.
Request a copy of your medical report: Ensure it contains every treatment and test you took.
Consult a medical malpractice attorney: As soon as you suspect something is wrong with the medical care you are receiving, consider contacting an attorney. A medical malpractice attorney will help you understand what happened and will take the necessary steps to help you seek compensation for the harm you have experienced.
Call a Medical Malpractice Attorney!
The car medical malpractice lawyers at D’Amore Personal Injury Law have handled various cases of medication errors. We will work with you to discover what went wrong, and to help you pursue fair compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to see if you have a case.