Medicines can save lives, but they can be life threatening, as well. The wrong dose, wrong drug, or the wrong combination can do more harm than good. Medication errors affect the lives of 1.5 million people every year, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Medication errors are defined as any preventable event that may cause or result in an inappropriate medication use or harm to the patient. ADEs (adverse drug events) account for more than 700,000 emergency department visits and 100,000 hospitalizations every year.
Advancements in the medical field have undoubtedly improved the health of patients, but they have also resulted in increased risks. Clinicians have access to a plethora of prescription medication, and about one-third of the U.S adults take five or more medications. Many of them might not be aware of the fact that preventable medical errors are considered to be the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Medication errors might sound harmless, but they can be fatal. Think of a situation where a doctor prescribes 10.0mg of Colchicine (by mistake), when he or she should have prescribed 1.0mg. It might seem that it is a mere decimal error, but the results can be disastrous.
Higher dose of Colchicine results in poisoning similar to arsenic poisoning, with a burning sensation in mouth and throat. It would be followed by extreme abdominal pain, and finally, the internal organs would melt and cause death within 24 to 72 hours. Shocking!
In a similar medical malpractice case, a family in Missouri was awarded nearly $3 million in a case against a Kansas doctor and pain clinic. If you have been a victim of medication error or medical malpractice, Kansas City medication error attorneys can help you get justice.
About 1.5 million people are severely injured or sickened every year in the U.S due to similar medication mistakes, and almost 100,000 people die, according to Institute of Medicine. So how will you protect yourself from medication errors and make sure that you don’t succumb to injuries caused by medication errors? The best way is to educate yourself and your loved ones with the most common types of medication errors, and know how to protect yourselves. To learn more, keep reading.
Most Common Types of Medication Errors
It is always better to be doubly sure before consuming any prescription drug. Talk to your doctor – ask him or her about the drug, the right dosage, the kind of side-effects it might have, ways to prevent them, etc. Here are some of the most common types of medication errors that you must be aware of:
1. Confusion Between Medications with Similar Names
The national Medication Error Reporting Program reveals, ‘confusion caused by similar drug names accounts for up to 25 percent of all reported errors.’ Most pharmacies shelve drugs in an alphabetical order, which means that drugs with similar names are stacked at the same place. So there are high chances that the staff can grab the wrong medicine. Oftentimes, the doctor’s handwriting is so unclear that it becomes tough to read what has been prescribed, or careless pharmacy staff might enter the wrong name into the computer.
In order to avoid confusion, you must ask your doctor about the name of the drug and the dosage. Make sure that you check the name of the drug when picking up the prescription from the pharmacy.
2. Buying the Wrong Alternative Medicines
It is always best to ask your doctor to prescribe alternative drugs. It might happen that the pharmacy runs out of stock and asks you to take alternative drugs. Instead of trusting the pharmacist, it is always best to ask the doctor. Oftentimes, drugs with almost similar compositions have different usage and dosages; so to prevent any type of adverse situation, you must always ask the doctor before taking any alternative medicine.
3. Wrong Route of Administration
A report by the FDA cited that, “16 percent of medication errors involve using the wrong route of administration.’ The doctors must explicitly mention the route of administration of the drug, and the patient must strictly follow it. Oftentimes, a drug that was supposed to be taken sub-lingually, is swallowed at once, or a liquid intended for injection is administered orally.
It is essential that you ask your doctor about the route of administration, and follow the instructions on the label. Ask questions (to the doctor and not any pharmacist) if you’re not sure. This is much more important if you are care-giving for a family member or close relative.
4. Wrong Dosage
Drugs are prescribed in various units, and a small mistake can become fatal. A mistake in a decimal point can become life-threatening (as the example mentioned toward the beginning of this article); many times, people mistake milligrams with micrograms, which means a dose becomes 1,000 times stronger.
In 2015, 32.4 deaths from drug overdose per 100,000 inhabitants were reported in state of West Virginia. The number of deaths by overdose of prescription drugs is growing at an alarming rate.
So you must ensure that the dosage is clearly mentioned on the original prescription. The doctor’s handwriting must also be clear enough. When you pick up the prescription from the pharmacy, ask the pharmacist to check the dosage; and you must check it for yourself to be sure. Never hesitate to ask questions, if you think that you are being prescribed (by the doctor), or given (from the pharmacy), the wrong medicine.
Medication errors happen not only due to the mistakes of medical professionals, but also due to the negligence of the patients themselves. It is necessary that both the doctor and patient take enough precautions to avoid any kind of bad consequence.
So, never hesitate to ask questions or discuss potential dangers with your doctor, healthcare provider, or pharmacist. No doubt, you can take help from medication error attorneys, in case you become a victim of medication errors, but you must always remember that ‘precaution is better than cure.