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The problem of medication errors

Issues with medications are at the root of many of our nation’s medical errors, causing an estimated 1.5 million annual injuries.

People in Indiana may understandably be concerned about the possibility of a medial error impacting them or one of their family members. These things happen more commonly that most people would wish. Medical mistakes also take many forms including problems that involve medications.

According to Psychology Today, medication errors are number four on the list of most dangerous medical mistakes in America. The Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy notes that a minimum of 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer injuries from medication errors each year. This number is based upon reported cases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, believes that many instances of errors involving medications go unreported. This increases the impact that these problems may actually have on patients.

What can be deemed a medication error?

A medication error is defined as a “preventable event” by the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error and Prevention. Such an error is said to result in or directly cause injury to a patient or some other inappropriate medication use. A drug can be in the control of a patient or other consumer as well as a medical professional at the time that an error occurs.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information differentiates between two classifications of these mistakes. One is called a prescribing fault which pertains to the actual decision-making process utilized in selecting a drug and the instructions. An example of this type of error would be when a physician orders an inappropriate medication.

The other is a prescription fault which pertains to the execution of a prescription order. An example of this type of error would be when the instructions given to the patient do not match the original order.

Following are factors or that can be involved in a medication error:

  • Illegible handwriting on a prescription order.
  • Verbal or written misunderstanding of a drug name when it sounds or looks similar to that of another medication.
  • Lack of proper information obtained about a patient’s history prior to prescribing.
  • Overly complex medication orders.

Errors can happen due to inaccurate knowledge, rules not being properly followed, instructions not being followed or even memory lapses.

Is the doctor always at fault?

The prescribing physician may be but is not always responsible for or involved in a medication error. Nurses, physicians’ assistants, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, pharmaceutical companies and others can all be at the root of these forms of medical malpractice.

What can be done after a medication error occurs?

As soon as a patient suspects that there has been any type of problem with a medication, action should be taken. Reaching out to an attorney for a consultation is always recommended at these times.

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