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7 Deadly Prescription Errors

7 Deadly Prescription Errors

Even in our modern, digital age, prescription errors can and do happen from time to time. In fact, it’s estimated that about 1.5 million Americans suffer harm because of medication errors each year. Mistakes in the prescribing process are often due to human error and can lead to adverse drug effects.

The following prescription mistakes are serious enough to potentially cause injury and even death depending on the patient and the severity of the error. Read on to learn about the seven most deadly prescribing errors in medicine.

Prescribing the Wrong Drug

It may come as a surprise that doctors sometimes prescribe the wrong drug, but it happens more commonly than you might expect. According to United States Pharmacopeia (USP), at least 3,170 pairs of drugs have similar names. This results in up to 25% of the nation's millions of annual drug errors

Similarly, a patient might be prescribed the right drug but the wrong version. Differences in a drug’s formula are sometimes expressed using two-letter modifiers, such as ER, SR, and XL. Prescribing someone the wrong formula of the correct medication can be dangerous as well.

Prescribing the Wrong Dose

Prescribing the wrong dose is one of the most common prescription errors, falling just behind prescribing the wrong drug. If a patient is given too small a dosage, the medicine may not be effective; when given too much, the patient could get sick or even overdose.

Failing to Adjust

Because many drugs have side effects, long term effects, and/or chemical makeups that can cause a reaction when mixed with other drugs, it is important that a doctor take all those considerations into account when prescribing new medication to a patient. Otherwise, a patient could become addicted to opioid painkillers, for instance, or even accidentally overdose. Always ask about side and other effects with your doctor when recommended a new medication.

Inputting Information Incorrectly

When inputting information on a computer, a single typo can be deadly. For example, if a person’s weight is accidentally entered as 100 kg instead of 100 lb., a higher dose than what is safe might be prescribed. Very young and very old patients are especially at risk of experiencing adverse results from this kind of mistake, so it is vital that medical providers double-check their work at each stage of the prescription process.

Missing Marks

Though humans are often behind prescription errors, electronic systems can make mistakes, too. If a person or a computer misinterprets a decimal point, an abbreviation’s meaning, or some other data, it can result in prescribing an incorrect dosage. If the addition of a clarifying zero or writing out the full name of a medication could have kept an injured patient from suffering harm, a prescriber could be held liable for medical malpractice.

Ignoring Important Alerts

If when inputting information a doctor ignores a pop-up or other message warning them of an error, either by accident or on purpose, it could lead to a patient receiving the wrong prescription and therefore fall under medical malpractice.

Becoming Distracted

More and more each day, doctors are making and editing prescriptions using their smartphones. With so many possible interruptions on such devices, like receiving a notification or a phone call, it’s easy for a doctor to get distracted, which can cause them to make an error such as those detailed above.

How to Prevent Prescription Errors

While doctors and pharmacists are generally extremely competent and trustworthy, they can make mistakes just like any other human. Communication is one of the best ways to prevent receiving the wrong prescription. Always ask about your dosage amount and any side effects before taking anything new. Also, double-check with your local pharmacist when you go to pick up your prescriptions that you have indeed been given the appropriate drug and dosage.

If you or a loved one has been affected by a prescription error or other medical mistake, contact The Law Offices of David Henderson for a free case evaluation. Our Anchorage medical malpractice attorney may be able to help you receive compensation.


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