Staying Safe From the Growing Dangers of Medication Errors

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 82 percent of adult Americans take at least one medication. That is equivalent to over 242 million people filling at least one prescription on a regular basis. With the addition of children and those who take more than one medication, Americans are filling billions of prescriptions every year—each one accompanied by the risk of a medication error.

What Are Medication Errors?

Medication errors are defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or harm to a patient.” The FDA has received nearly 100,000 reports of medication errors since 2000, but experts say that number is far too low. Hospitals, physicians, and pharmacies are not required by law to report medication errors, even if they result in injury or death. The CDC estimates over 700,000 people visit the emergency room due to a medication error each year. Common types of medication errors include:

  • Incorrect dosage leading to an overdose
  • Switching medications with similar names
  • Dangerous interactions between drugs
  • Using the wrong route of administration

Patients Must Be Proactive When Taking Medication

Health experts agree that the best way to avoid a medication error is to be proactive. Human error is inevitable, and the risks increase as a prescription passes down the typical chain from provider to pharmacy to patient. The FDA offers these tips to help avoid medication errors:

  1. Know the name of the medication. Often, patients do not pay attention to the specific name of the drug, so they may not realize if the pharmacy gives them the wrong medication. Know the brand name and the generic name, and write it down when you’re in the doctor’s office.
  2. Know what the medication is for. Be clear about what the medication is supposed to accomplish. Ask your doctor how long until you see the desired result.
  3. Know how to take the medication. Knowing to expect an oral medication or an injectable medication could prevent an error. Also, it is important to understand how often the drug should be taken to help avoid incorrect dosing.
  4. Read the label. The label contains all pertinent information, including the drug name, how it should be taken, when it should be taken, and for how long.
  5. Keep your healthcare team apprised of all medications, including over-the-counter products and dietary supplements. This ensures patients are not taking products that will cause dangerous overdoses or drug interactions.

Even if you take medication safely, errors can be made by others. If you or your loved one suffered injuries or illness due to a medication error, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact us through the Tapella Law website to learn more.