Medication Errors

There are over 3.4 billion prescriptions filled by mail order and in retail drugstores each year, and the prescription medicine industry is a multi-billion dollar business.  In addition, millions more prescriptions are filled in hospitals and other healthcare institutions each year for patients at these facilities.  Unfortunately, more than 1.5 million people are hospitalized each year due to medication errors or adverse reactions to medications.  According to a study completed in 2000, medication errors are one of the leading causes of deaths in the United States each year.  Throughout the medication process, from prescription of the medication, through dispensing the medication and administering the drug, there are numerous opportunities for errors to be made.

Types of Medication Errors

Errors with medication can occur in many ways, including the following:

Prescription errors A prescription error occurs when the doctor or nurse practitioner prescribes the wrong medication or the wrong dosage (amount) of medication for the patient.  Many times this type of error is due to the physician or other healthcare provider failing to properly investigate the patient’s medical history for possible medication complications or allergies, failing to review all of the patient’s other medical conditions to ensure that the medication will not result in an adverse reaction, or failing to properly evaluate the patient’s physical condition to determine if the medication should not be prescribed because of contraindications, which are reasons specific to each medication that the medication should not be prescribed to certain patients.  In addition, prescription errors can occur because:

  • The medical condition or disease for which the medication is being prescribed is actually an adverse reaction to another medication, which appears as a disease;
  • The medication is being prescribed to treat a condition that can and should be treated through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise
  • Interactions between two or more drugs that result in injury
  • The medical condition is not responsive to the medications initially prescribed
  • Prescribing two or more medications in the same therapeutic category

Dispensing errors
  A “dispensing” error is an error that is made when the prescription is filled.  This type of medical error typically occurs at pharmacies when the pharmacist or pharmacy technician either provides the patient with the wrong medication, the wrong dosage of the correct medication, or fails to review potentially adverse reactions with other medications taken by the patient.

Incorrect administration of drugs After the medication is prescribed and dispensed by the pharmacy, the medication must then be administered (given) to the patient.  This, again, is a potential point in the medication chain where a serious error can occur.  Errors in medication administration can occur in one or multiple ways –

  • Giving the patient the wrong dosage even though the prescription is correct
  • Giving the patient the medication at the wrong time or in conjunction with other medications that are contraindicated
  • Faulty equipment that administers the medications improperly, such as an intravenous pump

Failure to follow up and monitor medication use Lastly, even if medications have been prescribed, dispensed, and administered correctly, a medication error can occur when the doctor or other healthcare provider fails to monitor and follow up with a patient.

We can help.

Many medication errors go unnoticed, and not all medication errors result in injury.  However, when a patient is injured from any of the multitude of medication errors, this may give rise to a medical malpractice claim.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of a medication error, it is important that you speak to an attorney immediately. Our attorneys have experience in all aspects of medical error cases.  Know your rights.  All calls are confidential.