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Errors involving medications

As many as 1.5 million injuries are associated with medication errors in the United States every year making them a serious issue for patients.

When Pennsylvania residents are prescribed medications, they should be able to trust that such things will help them, not hurt them. Sadly, medication errors can and do happen and they can cause serious injuries or even death to patients just as can a missed or incorrect diagnoses.

According to the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, in the United States each year over 1.5 million injuries are noted and attributed to errors involving medications. Psychology Today outlines that on the list of dangerous medical errors, medication mistakes occupy the number four spot. To make matters even worse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration believes that several cases of medication errors are never even reported at all.

Not always the doctor's fault

Who or what is to blame for a medication error is anything but black and white. While a prescribing physician can be found liable for such a situation, other medical professionals or businesses may also play a role.

These can include pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, physicians' assistants, nurses and nurses' aides, and even pharmaceutical manufacturers.Medication errors can even occur when the drugs are in the control of the patient as well as when they are in the control of a care provider.

Different types of errors are possible

The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error and Prevention defines errors involving medications as preventable events that either lead to or cause some type of patient injury or wrong use of a medication.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information delineates between two different types of medication error classifications. One form of these errors is a prescription fault in which the execution of a medication order is incorrectly handled. An example would be when a prescription bottle label provides instructions to the patient that does not match the original doctor's order.

The other form of medication error is a prescribing fault in which some mistake occurs during the act of ordering a medication. An example would be when a doctor chooses an inappropriate drug or dosage amount.

Examples of things that can impact a medication error

Mistakes with medications can be caused by many different things. A few examples include the following:

  • Misinterpretation of a verbal prescription order.
  • Incorrect reading of a written drug order either due to poor handwriting or because the drug name is similar to that of another medication.
  • Complex orders that may be difficult to execute or follow.
  • Inappropriate accounting for patient allergies or additional medication use.

Whether rules or instructions were not followed appropriately or the wrong choice was made, a patient injury can result.

Important tips for patients

When being prescribed medication, Pennsylvania residents should take the time to understand all orders from the prescribing provider. Double-checking labels at the pharmacy is also advised. If at any time a problem is suspected, talking with an attorney is recommended.

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