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Prescription Medication Errors

Why Prescription Medication Errors Are So Dangerous

November 10, 2021 by James McHugh, Jr.
Prescription Medication Error

Prescription errors refer to mistakes in prescribing and dispensing medications. These errors are often referred to as preventable adverse drug events. Medication errors can occur virtually anywhere, including in a hospital, pharmacy, or nursing home. Medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people every year. Kids are at exceptionally high risk for drug errors because they typically require different doses than adults. Beyond that, if a pharmacist sends a patient home with the wrong medication, an incorrect dosage, or insufficient instructions on how or when to take the medication, the consequences can be serious – especially for the elderly and critically ill.

How A Prescription Medication Error Happens

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a prescription medication error as any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer. With such a broad definition, it can prove difficult to understand how prescription medication errors happen and how they can adversely affect patients.

Common scenarios involving prescription medication errors include:

  • Prescribing medications incorrectly – this includes both under and overprescribing medications or prescribing the wrong medication, any one of which can harm or even kill a patient.
  • Giving an incorrect diagnosis – if a doctor incorrectly diagnoses a patient and prescribes the wrong medication for their condition, the condition can worsen and new problems can arise due to the ingestion of an unprescribed, unnecessary medication.
  • Prescribing medications with interactions – this occurs when medications that are known to negatively interact with each other are prescribed to a patient.
  • Incorrect dosage – there are many considerations to take into account when determining the appropriate dosage for a patient; and, prescribing and/or administering the incorrect dosage could cause considerable harm to the patient and even kill them.
  • Withholding medication – when a doctor fails to administer necessary medication.
  • Medication mix-ups – sometimes, human error causes patients to receive medications other than what they have been prescribed or an incorrect dosage of prescribed medication.

Where Do Prescription Medication Errors Happen?

Prescription medication errors are most likely to occur in a hospital setting, involving doctors and nurses. However, pharmacists can also make prescription medication errors in pharmacies, as they are responsible for supplying patients with their medications. Because prescriptions for medication go through several individuals before the actual drugs reach the patient, the potential for human error and other mistakes exists at every stage.

Medication Errors Are Extremely Dangerous for Children

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), prescription medication errors occur with more than one in every five medications given to children. Unlike adults, children are more vulnerable to the dangerous side effects caused by the ingestion of incorrect medications because their body mass is much smaller, meaning they can only tolerate much smaller doses of medications to begin with. Prescribing the wrong medications or the wrong dosage could have devastating consequences.

Prescription medication errors in children might not always be immediately apparent, and oftentimes hospitals are unwilling to admit making a mistake. If you suspect your child has been subject to a prescription medication error, you should seek a second opinion with a doctor not affiliated with the hospital or healthcare system who prescribed the original medication.

COVID-19 Increases Medication Errors in Hospitals

Many of us take daily prescription medications that are medically necessary to ensure our health and have done so since long before the coronavirus pandemic. While the usual demands on pharmacies remain the same, many pharmacies and other medication dispensaries are being overrun by people trying to stockpile medications and supplies, many even filling extra months’ worth of their medications out of fear of shortages.

Ensuring the continuous functionality of pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential. But in doing so, workers risk exposure to sick customers, making them feel stressed; even more are overworked, overtired, and dealing with childcare issues at home. With so much on their minds, it’s no wonder those involved in the prescribing and dispensing of prescription medication – whether in a hospital or care facility setting or pharmacy – are making more mistakes.

Patients With Chronic Illnesses Rely on Consistent, Accurate Medications

If you or someone you know is diabetic, you know that insulin and daily medications are crucial in day-to-day life. While regular trips to the doctor and pharmacist might be commonplace, patients who suffer from diabetes are often particularly susceptible to medication errors.

Though your doctor or specialist might prescribe you something to help a different ailment, it can have adverse and sometimes even detrimental effects when interacting with other medications. Medications prescribed to treat conditions other than diabetes are often even contraindicated for someone with diabetes.

These occurrences have become so prevalent that hospitals are adopting new recommendations to combat the issue. For instance, according to the Pharmaceutical Journal, each hospital will need to be equipped with specialist diabetes multi-disciplinary teams with strong leadership qualities. These teams will be staffed with a pharmacist and will be able to determine potential prescription medication side effects for the patient prior to them being prescribed a new drug.

What To Do If You Suspect a Medication Error

While the first instinct of someone who suspects they have suffered a prescription medication error is to stop taking the medication, a patient should never stop their prescriptions without first consulting a physician. The best course of action is to obtain a second opinion from a doctor who is not affiliated with the hospital or healthcare provider that prescribed you the medication.

Philadelphia Prescription Medication Error Attorneys

Hospitals and other healthcare providers rarely own up to mistakes made when prescribing medication to a patient, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be held responsible for their negligence. The experienced Philadelphia prescription medication error attorneys at Lopez McHugh LLP have been helping victims of medical negligence for over 30 years. If you or someone you love was injured by a prescription medication error, call us today for a free and confidential consultation.

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