Medication errors are considered one of the most common medical errors that occur. It’s estimated that 1.5 million people are harmed in some way due to this problem each year.
The additional costs related to treating drug-related injuries that occur in hospitals alone are at least $3.5 billion per year; this estimate doesn’t consider the cost of lost productivity, wages or other health care costs. Understanding the common causes of medication errors can help you protect yourself and know when you may have a viable medical malpractice claim.
Common causes of medication errors
Preventable medication errors occur because the system in place to safely prescribe and order medications are not used properly. Common causes of these preventable errors include:
- Illegible handwritten prescriptions
- Missing or insufficient information about co-prescribed medications, allergic sensitivities, laboratory values and past dose-response relationships
- Orally transmitted prescriptions (names that sound alike may be confused)
- Incorrect drug or dose selected
- Prescriptions with similar names may be read and dispensed incorrectly
- Prescriptions that are never sent to the pharmacy or filled by a patient
- Lack of drug utilization review or adequate documentation
In some situations, it is the doctor or nurse who is at fault for this error; in other situations, it is the pharmacy.
Preventing prescription errors
Preventing prescription errors takes effort from all involved parties, including patients. Make sure you ask questions if you aren’t sure about something, and double-check the dosage and medication you are given.
If a medication error does occur, you have rights. If it is due to the negligence of a medical professional, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Knowing your rights could help you recover compensation.