Medication Errors Attorney
U.S. medical professionals have access to more than 10,000 prescription drugs, and nearly a third of adults take five or more medications. With the use of prescription medications increasingly widespread and complex, the risk of harmful and even deadly errors is increasing.
Every year, about 1.3 million Americans are injured due to medication errors, which the Food and Drug Administration defines as preventable events that cause inappropriate use of medications. Since 2000, the FDA has recorded more than 95,000 instances of medication errors. Because reports are provided on a volunteer basis, experts believe the true number of mistakes is even higher.
Causes of Medication Errors
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality outlines a number of possible medication errors:
- Skipped doses.
- Incorrect administration technique.
- Duplicate medication.
- Unreadable order.
- Failure of equipment needed in administering a drug.
- Insufficient monitoring.
- Errors in preparation.
- Drug interactions.
According to the FDA, medication errors occur for many reasons. Poorly designed packaging or instructions, confusion about dosing, miscommunication of prescription orders and other factors can play a role. In many cases, a medication error occurs because of the interaction of several complex factors.
An example is the prescription cough medication Tussionex. The drug’s main ingredient, the narcotic Hydrocodone, can cause serious breathing issues when too much of the medication is administered at once or when it is administered more frequently than recommended. The drug is not to be used in children younger than 6.
But in some cases, medical professionals have prescribed Tussionex for children younger than 6 and for more frequent doses than the label indicates. In addition, some patients have taken too much due to misunderstanding the directions or using inaccurate devices for measuring.
Another cause of medication errors the FDA cites is similarly named drugs. Although the agency’s Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis works with drug manufacturers to avoid drugs with similar names, some sources of error and confusion do slip through the process.
According to Mayo Clinic, medication errors occur in hospitals, pharmacies, senior living communities, individuals’ private homes and doctors’ offices. The most common causes include poor communication — both among medical professionals and between patients and medical care providers — along with names and abbreviations that sound too similar.
Avoiding Medication Errors
Between a medical professional’s decision to provide a patient with a certain prescription and the patient actually taking the medication, a number of steps occur that are ripe for potential errors.
- A medical professional ordering a prescription for a patient must choose the right medication and specify the correct dosage.
- When orders are transcribed by administrative staff in a paper-based ordering system, the medical professional’s request must be interpreted correctly.
- A pharmacist must be vigilant for possible drug interactions and an individual patient’s allergies, and the correct medication must be dispensed in the right form and quantity.
- The correct medication must be given to a patient at the right time. In a hospital, for instance, a nurse typically gives medications.
It’s likely that most medication errors happen at the prescription and transcription phases, but errors also occur in inpatient and outpatient healthcare settings.
In addition, patients are responsible for some medication errors as well. The National Institutes of Health advises that patients can help prevent errors by:
- Keeping an up-to-date list of all the medications they take and understanding the correct dosages. The list should include any vitamins, supplements, herbal remedies and over-the-counter medications, and the list should be provided to a patient’s physician at every visit.
- Using extreme caution when giving medications to children.
- Reading labels and closely following all listed directions.
- Avoiding taking medications prescribed to someone else.
- Asking questions of doctors and pharmacists as necessary, including why a medication is being prescribed, what the common side effects are and what to do if an adverse reaction occurs.
Reporting Medication Errors
FDA encourages reporting of medication errors to its MedWatch service. To track medication errors, the agency works closely with a number of partners, including the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and the U.S. Pharmacopeia. Reports received through either of those organizations automatically are sent to MedWatch. In a cooperative effort, the groups work to monitor and evaluate errors and to provide the public with information for avoiding potentially harmful medication mistakes.
Have You Suffered Harm Because of a Medication Error?
If you’ve experienced a medication error, you may not know, because the signs and symptoms are not always clear. If you feel that you’ve had an allergic reaction to a drug or suffered any other adverse event, it’s wise to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. For a free consultation, please contact Ivan Diamond today.
The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond888 Grand Concourse #1L Bronx, NY 10451 Phone: (718) 588-2000 Ivan M. Diamond is available for home and hospital visits, as well as weekend and evening appointments.
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