How Medication Errors Impact the Elderly

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A recent study from the University of Eastern Finland showed the connection between elderly patient deaths and medication administration errors. While the research was focused principally in England and Wales, it mirrored much of what is happening in the United States with regard to preventable, medication errors.

The Drugs Most Likely in Medication Errors

The study involved data from more than 500,000 patients from 2007 to 2016. It revealed 229 incidents involving patients aged 76 and older. In most cases, the drug classes that were most commonly cited were drugs for treating the central nervous system, cardiovascular drugs, and antibiotics.

The deadliest of the medications cited were anticoagulants, otherwise known as blood thinners. The study indicated that 31 percent of the errors that occurred were because of the accidental omission of a drug.  Otherwise stated, the errors were simply due to negligence or lack of appropriate care on the part of treating physicians and other health care providers.

Multi-Morbidity and Its Risks

Patients who are elderly are much more likely to have multiple “co-morbidities” or diseases that require medical attention and/or medication.   One problem is that patients in this age demographic are much more likely to be prescribed more than one kind of volatile medication.

The increase in the number of medications being administered increases the likelihood of medication mistakes, which can include adverse interactions between prescription drugs. Additionally, many older patients are thought to be prescribed too many medications, making it harder to keep track of what they’re taking.

What Could Be the Solution?

There isn’t one single solution to prevent medication errors and other forms of medical negligence that require the attention of medical malpractice attorneys. It is believed that the best ways to reduce medication errors is by improving education, advancing technology, and improving communication.

However, the cause of many of these mistakes is often communication between the prescribing physicians and pharmacy staff.  Sometimes medication errors are caused by insufficient staffing.

What is a Medication Error?

There are generally three different types of medication errors: (1) the dispensing of the wrong medication, (2) the dispensing of the wrong dosage of a medication, or (3) the prescribing of the wrong medication entirely (including prescribing a medication to which the patient is allergic).   In any of these circumstances, there is a failure in the treatment process that results in harm to the patient. The key to preventing medication errors includes:

  • Ensuring that the correct medication is given;
  • Ensuring that the proper dosage of medication is given;
  • Ensuring that the medication is provided at the right time of day in the proper frequency and dosage;
  • Ensuring that the medication is administered properly – orally, injection, etc.;
  • Ensuring that the medication prescribed is the correct medication and that all contra-indications to that medication have been evaluated, including whether or not the patient is allergic to the medication.

If you or a family member has been injured as a result of a medication error, you should seek the guidance of a medical malpractice lawyer who can pursue a claim against the responsible party. Call the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. at (310) 289-2600 to schedule a free initial consultation.

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