How Do Prescription Errors Happen and How Can They Be Prevented?

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Medical malpractice can lead to serious injuries, and often, these injuries can be caused by prescription errors. Studies show that one out of every three adverse drug events is caused by a nurse administering the wrong drug to a patient. Fortunately, about 86 percent of all potential drug errors are caught by nurses. Otherwise, the number of prescription errors would be even greater. These medication errors may require the help of a medical malpractice attorney to pursue a claim for damages.

These preventable prescription errors can be expensive and are estimated to cost anywhere from $1.56 billion to $5.6 billion per year. Those expenses are directly related to hospital admissions that are sometimes required because of a lack of appropriate drug therapy or inappropriate use of drug therapy.

Reports indicate that patient non-compliance and/or inappropriate prescribing account for 3 percent to 25 percent of all hospitalizations with that rate varying based on patient age and morbidity. Patients who have been injured by adverse drug events can expect a hospital stay extension of around two days, which means they will pay anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500 more on their hospital bill.

Medication Errors Are More Common Than You Think

The American Journal of Nursing reported that medication errors are estimated to occur at a rate of 5 per 100 administrations of medications, but only 7 of every 100 medication errors have the potential to cause injury to the patient. Only 1 of every 100 medication errors actually causes an injury. When in a hospital setting, it has been estimated that the number of adverse drug events ranges from 1 error per patient per day to as many as 6.5 events per 100 admissions of a non-obstetric nature.

One study revealed that adverse drug events are even more common in teaching hospitals versus community hospitals, but this could be because medication errors are more likely to be detected and reported in a teaching facility. The intensive care unit (ICU) is where adverse drug events are most likely to happen.

Causes for Adverse Drug Events

There are several ways that a medication error can take place: (1) when a medication is switched with that of another patient, (2) when the wrong medication is prescribed because of a labeling or fulfillment error, or (3) when an inappropriate medication is prescribed by a health care provider. Studies indicate that most adverse drug events – anywhere from 49 percent to 56 percent of them – occur when the doctor orders or prescribes the drugs.

Nurses and pharmacists are often responsible for improper administration of medications. When it comes to medication errors, nurses and pharmacists are responsible for 26 to 34 percent of the errors. While 14 percent of the errors are due to dispensing errors, transcription errors account for another 11 percent of mistakes.

Sometimes the patients themselves are the cause for the medication error by taking too little or too much of a medication or failing to adhere to prescription directions. The number of prescription errors could be reduced if all parties were more attentive and confirmed the prescription and the dosage of the medication to be taken.

Consult with a Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured because of a medication error or pharmacy error, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney. To consult with a Los Angeles, medical malpractice attorney, call The Trial Law Office of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. today for a free initial consultation.

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