Medication errors occur at alarming rates in the United States, and while the list of errors can vary, some occur more often than others. Most of these errors are preventable; therefore, knowing which ones are more common could save your life or the life of a loved one. More common errors include improper dosage or using the wrong medication.
While numerous errors happen each year, knowing the most common can protect you from becoming a victim of this very real medical threat.
What Is a Medication Error?
A medication error occurs when a healthcare professional either makes a mistake while prescribing, dispensing, or administering medications. A pharmacist, physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional can commit these fatal mistakes. Therefore, it is not isolated to a single type of medicine or healthcare industry either.
Almost all medication errors are preventable, and when they do occur, those who are the victims of these errors can seek compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Before doing so, it is best to consult with an attorney and make sure you have a case. While you wait for your consultation, you can review the common medication errors so that you know what to avoid.
Common Medication Errors in the U.S. That Are Preventable
Medication errors typically occur due to communication errors. Whether they are between patient and staff or staff and pharmacy, most of these can be resolved by better communication and by following drug protocols.
Prescribing or Dispensing the Wrong Medication
Medication names can resemble one another but do two very different things. One common medication error that occurs is prescribing the wrong medication. A physician might accidentally prescribe a different medication than they intended just by writing down the wrong one. Other times, a physician may misspell a prescription and the pharmacist interprets it for the incorrect medication (creating a dispensing error).
At the pharmacy level, the pharmacist could read the prescription incorrectly and use the wrong medication to fill the prescription.
If a patient doesn’t verify that the prescription they picked up from the pharmacy matches what they discussed with their doctor, they could take a medication with dangerous side effects or one that has interactions to the other medications they are currently on.
Prescribing the Wrong Dosage
Incorrect dosing can be just as fatal as prescribing the wrong medication. Prescribing too much may lead to dangerous side effects or an overdose of a particular medication, while prescribing too little may result in an illness going untreated.
For example, a patient has an infection and they are prescribed an antibiotic. The physician prescribes too little to be an effective dose, making the patient’s infection worse. As the infection continues, the patient develops sepsis – a life-threatening infection. Had the physician prescribed the proper, effective dose, the patient’s infection would have cleared up and it would not have worsened into sepsis.
Children are at high risk for being prescribed the wrong dose. For children, dosing is based not only off of their age, but also their weight. If physicians fail to get the proper weight of a child, they may prescribe too much or too little. In some cases, a physician may accidentally prescribe an adult’s dosage to a child.
Not Getting a Patient’s Full History and Prescribing Drugs with Dangerous Interactions
Physicians should always consult with a patient about any existing medications they are on before prescribing something new. This includes all over-the-counter medications the patient takes that could create a dangerous interaction with the new prescription. If a patient does not tell a prescriber about the medications they take, they could be at fault, too. For example, the patient tells their physician about all of the prescriptions they are taking, but they do not tell their physician about an herbal supplement they are taking. That herbal supplement could end up having a serious interaction with the prescription medication.
Providing Incorrect Instructions
Sometimes, it is the right prescription with the right dose, but the wrong instructions. A physician may tell the patient to take only a single dose per day when they really needed three doses per day for the drug to be effective.
Other times, the physician may give the pharmacy incorrect information for how the patient will take the drug – such as liquid versus pill form. The concentration amounts in liquid and pill can vary, depending on the drug. Therefore, giving the same dosage instructions for a pill but in liquid could result in serious side effects.
Patients Must Be Their Own Advocates
You cannot rely on a medical professional to do everything right. While it is their job and they should be able to prescribe medication without harming a patient, drug errors are all too common these days. The only way you can truly protect yourself from becoming a victim is to communicate with your physician, take notes, and verify the prescriptions you are given match your notes. Do not be afraid to speak up if you think you were prescribed the wrong medication or dosage either.
Injured by a Preventable Prescription Drug Error? You Have Rights
If you or a loved one was injured due to a preventable medication error, you may be entitled to compensation. To explore your options, it is best that you speak with an attorney regarding your case. Medication error claims fall under medical malpractice.
To file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you will need an attorney who can help you prove that the healthcare provider was responsible for your injuries and hold them accountable for damages.
You deserve compensation after a serious medication injury. Whether it is medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, or long-term disability, you can hold medical providers accountable.
To explore your options, speak with an attorney in your area who handles medical malpractice claims. Attorney Seth Gladstein from the Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, can assist you with your case.
To get started, schedule a confidential case evaluation by calling us directly or contacting us online to learn more.