Six Pharmaceutical Errors You Should Be Aware Of
By Younker Hyde Macfarlane on February 13, 2014
Pharmaceutical errors occur with alarming frequency, affecting close to 1.5 million people each year. In fact, according to the seminal study To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, pharmaceutical errors are responsible for 44,000 to 98,000 deaths each year. Even more alarmingly, deadly pharmaceutical mistakes seem to be on the rise. With the shocking regularity of such errors, you should be aware of some of the most common blunders so that, if possible, you can prevent them from happening to you. In this blog post, we review common medication errors. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a pharmaceutical error, consult the medical malpractice attorneys of Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC.
1. Receiving the Wrong Medications
Patients can be given the wrong medication for a number of reasons. A doctor could misdiagnose a condition or could mix up the names of drugs. More frequently, however, these errors occur in the pharmacy. Pharmacists may mix up drugs with similar sounding names, handwritten prescriptions may be illegible, or drugs may be improperly labeled. In some cases, receiving the wrong drug may be a minor mistake. For example, if a patient needlessly takes an antibiotic, it will not usually cause harm. However, in some instances, receiving the wrong medication could prove life-threatening.
2. Improper Dosage
This is by far the most common pharmaceutical error, and according to the FDA, improper dosage accounts for 41 percent of fatal medication mistakes. While low dosage can pose a big risk when the drug fails to adequately treat a serious medical condition, overly high dosage typically causes more damage. Elderly patients are particularly at risk for overdoses, since their bodies are not able to metabolize medication as quickly. Petite patients are also at risk, since doctors frequently prescribe the same dosage that they would to much larger patients. When the drugs are particularly powerful, this can cause serious harm.
3. Prescribing Drugs to Which You Are Allergic
Drug allergies occur when a patient’s body registers a medication as a foreign substance and sends a message to the immune system to eradicate it. A doctor or pharmacist typically cannot be held responsible if there was no previous indication of a drug allergy. However, in some cases, harried, busy doctors prescribe medications without examining their patients’ medical histories. Drug allergy symptoms vary widely. Minor symptoms include hives, itchy eyes, congestion, and rashes. However, patients may also experience severe, life-threatening symptoms such as difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, confusion, and a blue tint to the skin.
4. Adverse Reactions with Other Drugs
Certain drugs, while safe in and of themselves, can have dire effects when taken in conjunction with other medications. Again, side effects can range from mild to fatal, and the errors typically occur when doctors fail to examine their patients’ records thoroughly. In addition, some drugs can have adverse reactions with certain foods. Doctors and pharmacists should provide detailed instructions before a patient begins any prescription drug regimen.
5. Treating Drugs with Drugs
In some patients, prescription drugs can actually cause another disease to develop. For example, drugs can cause ulcers, memory loss, depression, sexual dysfunction, constipation, and other problems. However, doctors often fail to recognize that these conditions are actually the side effects of a prescription. Instead, they prescribe another drug, thinking that they are treating a separate medical condition. In some cases, this may only prolong a patient’s discomfort. In other cases, however, dangerous side effects can go untreated for months, posing a serious risk to a patient’s life.
6. Failure to Monitor Side Effects
Many drug-induced side effects will quickly subside as soon as a patient is taken off of a medication. However, when doctors fail to provide follow-up appointments and monitoring, these side effects can have devastating effects. While doctors should always be careful after prescribing a new medication to a patient, they should be especially vigilant in monitoring certain drugs, including anti-psychotic drugs, lupus medication, and high-level pain medications.
Contact an Attorney
Doctors and pharmacists have an important responsibility to protect public health and safety. If you or a loved one has suffered because of pharmaceutical errors, a medical malpractice case can help you obtain financial compensation and put an end to negligent medical practices. Contact a personal injury attorney to learn more about pharmaceutical malpractice cases.
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