Medication errors involving prescription
drugs account for 1.5 million injuries and deaths per year according
to the esteemed Institute of Medicine. Of this number, 400,000
cases of medication errors are preventable.
Approximately 800,000 prescription medication
errors occur in nursing homes, 530,000 in outpatient clinics that
tend to Medicare patients and 400,000 in hospitals.
Between 44,000 and 98,000 people die every year in hospitals
due to prescription medication errors. The cost for preventable
medication errors in hospitals tops $3.5 billion every year. Add
to this number the cost for medical
malpractice lawsuits, because of prescription errors, is estimated
between $17 billion and $29 billion per year.
Hospitals and long-term care facilities generally do not report
medication errors to patients and family member unless injury
or death occurs. Common errors include the writing of prescriptions
that interact with another drug the patient is taking, a nurse
putting the wrong medication or incorrect dose in an intravenous
drip (IV) or a pharmacist dispensing the incorrect dosage. Other
errors include not taking into account the age and weight of a
patient, disregarding allergies and other health complications,
or prescription errors because of illegible handwriting.
Doctors try to abide by the five R's when prescribing medication
to insure that prescription mediation errors don't occur. The
five R's represent a quick and effective safety checklist used
to curb prescription incidents. These five R's include Right patient,
Right medication, Right dosage, Right route and Right time.
Besides the safety checks and balances that doctors, pharmacists
and hospitals are currently using that clearly are not working,
the Institute of Medicine recommends additional safety measures
in order to curb the rising tide of medication errors in this
country. Some of the new safety measures recommended by the Institute
of Medicine include electronic prescriptions, a standardized bar-code
system for dispensing and checking prescribed drugs and additional
The Institute of Medicine also says the FDA and pharmaceutical
industry needs to make prescription drug information more accessible
to consumers. Prescription drug packaging also needs to be revamped
in order to be more error-proof. One specific recommendation by
the Institute of Medicine is that more drug be dispensed in blister
packs so that the drugs are easier to identify and it's easier
for patients to remember whether they've taken their daily dosage.
Both the elderly and children are more susceptible to prescription
medication errors than the general population. The elderly are
susceptible because they generally take more medications and have
more healthcare providers helping them. Children are susceptible
because their bodies are immature and often lack the ability to
tolerate and metabolize toxic levels of a medication as many adults
Negligence claims involving
prescription medication errors are some of the most common personal
injury lawsuits that an attorney will handle. If you or a
loved one has been injured because of a prescription medication
error it is important to contact a personal
injury lawyer right away so that they can gather important
relative documents, depose witnesses and file papers before the
statute of limitation runs out. Waiting too long in this type
of case, may just be a prescription for disaster.