How Common Are Medication Errors?

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pill bottleWhen a doctor writes a prescription, most people assume that the pharmacy simply fills the right bottle with the right dose of the right medication. In reality, more than 1.3 million people are injured every year by medication errors.

Patients who receive the wrong dose or wrong type of medication are vulnerable to additional injuries because they are already sick. People over the age of 60 are especially susceptible to medication errors because they are more likely to be taking multiple types of drugs. Before you have your next prescription filled, make sure you know what type of medication errors are common and what you can do about them.

Types of Medication Errors

According to a study by the Food and Drug Administration, the most common type of medication error involves receiving the wrong dosage of a drug. The study showed that over 40% of fatal medication errors were the result of a patient receiving an improper dose of medicine.

An additional 16% of fatal errors were the result of either giving a patient the wrong medication, or using the wrong route of administration, for example, an injectable medication which is taken orally.

Another area of medication error involves unknown drug interactions. If a doctor is not aware of all of the medications and supplements a patient is taking, he or she may unknowingly prescribe a medication which reacts badly with another drug.

Preventing Medication Errors

Patients who are prescribed medication can take steps to lessen the chances of a medication error. First, when you receive a prescription, speak with your doctor about what the drug is for, what the name of the drug is, and what the dosage should be. Make sure you understand how you are supposed to take the drug, as well as any special precautions or instructions you may need to take.

Next, verify that the medication you receive from the pharmacy is correct. Check the dosage and the instructions, and ask questions if anything seems wrong or missing. Speak with the pharmacist directly, and have him or her ask your doctor for clarification if your prescription still seems wrong.

Finally, always make sure that you tell your doctor about any and all medications and supplements you are taking. Many herbal supplements or vitamin supplements can interfere with certain medications, so don’t leave anything out.

While many medication errors happen because of a miscommunication between the doctor and the pharmacy, patients confined in hospitals are especially at risk for errors because they cannot check the medications and dosages themselves. Errors in the hospital can happen as a result of a doctor’s notes being misread, numbers being transposed or changed, or simply because a nurse or other medical professional was not paying attention. Patients who are in the hospital should try and have a friend or a family member verify the name of the medication, the dosage, and the purpose of the drug before it is administered.

Help After A Medication Injury

The vast majority of medication errors are a result of negligence. Most injuries could have been prevented if prescriptions were double checked, if handwriting was legible, and medical staff had paid attention.

Careful verification of medications before administration can prevent hundreds of thousands of injuries every year. When doctor, pharmacist, or other medical professional’s negligence injures you or a loved one, you have the right to take action. At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., we work to help victims of medical malpractice, and will thoroughly investigate your case. Our experienced staff of legal and medical professionals help you recover your losses, including medical expenses, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.

For a free consultation with a Los Angeles medical malpractice death lawyer, call (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed today.

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