With all of the emphasis today on making sure that every pain pill and dose of cough syrup is tightly controlled, you’d think that medication errors would be virtually non-existent. However, that’s far from the case.
In fact, medication errors injure roughly 1.5 million people every year. Getting the wrong medication can, at best, leave a patient’s actual condition untreated. At worst, the wrong drug can be fatal. In between those two scenarios, many patients are left with catastrophic injuries as the result of exposure to the wrong medication or wrong dosage.
What are the main causes of medication errors?
Medication errors can happen anywhere between the manufacturer of the drug and the patient. In almost all cases, medication mistakes are attributable to human error — which means they are wholly preventable. Common causes of errors include the following:
- A drug’s supplier or manufacturer gives the doctor (and thus, the patient) misleading information about a drug’s effectiveness or safety.
- A doctor prescribes a drug “off-label” without sufficient care or warning to the patient.
- A doctor or pharmacist fails to check the interactions of a drug with a patient’s other medications or other conditions.
- A pharmacist or nurse makes a mistake and dispenses a drug that has a similar name or appearance to the drug that was supposed to be dispensed.
- A patient is given another patient’s drugs by mistake due to confusion by a nurse or pharmacist who didn’t check the patient’s identification.
- A patient is given the right drug but the wrong dosage — leaving them either so under-medicated that the drug is ineffective at treating their condition or so over-medicated that they’re harmed by the drug.
Unfortunately, patients are rarely able to spot the problem on their own until it’s too late.
What can you do if a medication error left you or a loved one injured?
When you’ve been seriously injured by a medication error or a loved one has been killed, you have every right to demand accountability from anybody who contributed to the mistake. Don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance.