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Understanding the Prevalence, Causes, and Prevention of Medication Errors

Medication ErrorsWhen patients receive a prescription from their doctor, or have a medication filled by their pharmacist, they expect that they will be provided with the correct medication, in the correct dosage, and that due diligence will be used to ensure that the medication will not have a bad interaction with any of the other drugs they are taking. Yet, every day, Americans suffer either death or injury because of a prescription error. The following explains the prevalence and potential causes of these mistakes, and it provides valuable information on how patients can protect themselves from pharmaceutical error.

Prevalence and Causes of Medication Errors in America

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at least one person is killed by a medication error in the United States each and every day. Another 1.3 million suffer some form of non-fatal injury each year. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to track down who is truly responsible for such errors since these harmful and potentially deadly mistakes can happen anywhere in the prescription process. The doctor may write a prescription for the wrong dosage, the pharmacist may fill the wrong medication, a nurse may give the drug in the wrong dosage – the possibilities are truly endless.

Causes can vary greatly, depending on where they occur in the distribution system. For example, the doctor who writes a prescription for the wrong drug may have been under a great deal of stress or in a rush at the time. Alternatively, the pharmacist may mistakenly read the prescription wrong, thereby filling the wrong type or dosage of medication. The nurse may suffer from poor technique, which causes him or her to administer the wrong amount of medication to a patient.

Protecting Yourself From Possible Medication Errors

For one family, prescription error resulted in the death of a child. Instead of giving the parents Tryptophan, which the boy had been taking for months to treat his parasomnia, the pharmacist allegedly mixed a toxic dose of Baclofen (used to treat muscle spasms in individuals with multiple sclerosis). The boy’s parents had no indication that they had been given the wrong medication – it looked the same, and their son did not mention it tasting any different. Yet, after just one dose, the otherwise healthy child passed away in his sleep.

Tragedies like this cannot be completely prevented by patients. Yet, there are ways to help reduce your risk of medication errors. Know what medication your doctor is giving you, and why. Make sure you are clear on the dosage and how to take it, and the check the prescription filled by the pharmacist for any potential mistakes. You should also ask your doctor, specifically, if the drug will interact with any of your other medications. This encourages your doctor to either go over your medications with you, or to check your chart a second time, just to be sure.

If a Medication Error Happens to You

Because it is not possible for a patient to completely eliminate their risk of a medication error, advocates to protect the rights of patients are needed. At Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P., we pride ourselves on our commitment to the future and well-being of our clients. We fight aggressively to help them receive the compensation that they deserve. Get the seasoned assistance you need by scheduling a consultation with our San Jose medical malpractice attorneys. Call us at (408) 289-1417 today.

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Client Reviews
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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.