Prescription Medication Errors

Although we spend more money on healthcare than any other nation in the world, medical errors are a leading cause of death in the United States. These deadly medical mistakes not only include misdiagnosis or misinterpreting test results, but also include prescription medication errors. As it turns out, medication errors are one of the leading causes of injury and death among patients. A Drexel University study found medication errors impact more than seven million patients across the country every year, and around 30% of hospitalized patients experience a discrepancy in their prescription medication. These errors can cause severe illness, permanent disability, and death.

Types of Prescription Medication Errors

The study reported most prescription errors represent a “Swiss cheese” model of system error, representing the errors commonly made during every phase of the prescription process, from initial prescribing and transcribing to pharmacy dispensation and discharge communications. Regardless of how minor a drug error may seem, any error in prescription medication could have catastrophic side effects causing a serious reaction in patients. Prescription medication errors can happen in a variety of ways; however, most commonly medication errors can be divided into the following categories:

  • Prescribing medications that interact dangerously with one another can have grave consequences, including death. It’s crucial that all medications are properly vetted and prescribed so patients do not suffer further illness or injury from dangerous interactions among prescribed medications.
  • Prescribing the wrong medications to treat a patient’s condition not only fails to provide proper treatment but could also cause a new illness or injury in addition to worsening the initial injury or illness for which the patient sought medical attention.
  • Overprescribing unnecessary medications can have a severe, long-term effect on a patient and their loved ones. Depending on the medication, overprescribing can lead to chemical dependencies that inflict serious illnesses including addiction.
  • Under-prescribing necessary medications fails to fully address a patient’s medical needs. Without the proper dosage, even a medication that can treat a patient’s condition could fall short in providing quality treatment. Correct dosage amounts are crucial in proving proper care and physicians should consider the patient’s medical history and personal information, such as height and weight, to determine an accurate dosage.
  • Giving an incorrect dosage for a patient could lead to a patient suffering permanent disability, additional illness, or worsening their original condition. Patients depend on a medical professional’s competence in administering correct dosages that will not cause further harm.
  • Preemptively stopping medication before it has taken effect or in such a way that it causes harm can be just as dangerous as not prescribing the correct medication or dosage. Additionally, patients may experience other side effects from quickly changing and/or rotating medications. Medications and the patient’s thereto should be closely monitored during aftercare.

Physicians, pharmacists, and other medical professionals involved with patient prescriptions can reduce errors by more thoroughly investigating patient symptoms, medical history, and current medications. Taking the additional time to more thoroughly review a patient prior to prescribing medication could reduce medical errors such as medications interacting violently with one another or harming a patient.

What to Do If You Suspect a Prescription Medication Error

Always read the side effects of each prescription medication carefully in order to know what is and is not normal when taking them. Patients can also ask their pharmacist about side effects when filling their prescriptions. Patients who experience side effects beyond the norm or who suffer symptoms not listed in the product packaging may be victims of prescription medication errors. If the condition worsens or new symptoms develop, there may be a prescription medication error; however, the hospital or other medical facility involved will be extremely unlikely to admit fault.

Patients suspecting medication errors should not discontinue treatment without the approval of a doctor. Anyone who suspects an error should seek a second opinion immediately, preferably with a doctor not associated with the hospital or healthcare system that prescribed the subject medication. This will allow a patient to receive unbiased medical advice, as well as give them the opportunity to consult with a neutral medical professional about their situation.

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Prescription errors in children and adults can have devastating consequences. Medication errors can come with life altering side effects that impact the quality of life for a patient as well as their loved ones. The duty to provide quality, proper care to patients should not end just because a patient is discharged. Patients trust their physician has a quality treatment plan, and when they don’t, patients are unnecessarily harmed. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury or wrongfully died as the result of a prescription medication error, contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Lopez McHugh LLP  to discuss your options at no charge.


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