Most people have taken a prescription medication at some point in their lives and have received warnings of the side effects and dangers of taking the medication incorrectly. However, even when they follow the directions, they could be at risk of a fatal error.
According to StatPearls, between 7,000 and 9,000 Americans die each year because of a medication error.
What is a medication error?
One of the key aspects of a medication error is that it is a preventable event. Further, the error leads to inappropriate use of the medication or harm to the patient. Common medication errors include giving the medication to the wrong patient, giving the wrong medication to a patient or giving the wrong dosage to the patient.
A patient may also receive a medication that a doctor who appropriately checked medical records should have known was an allergen.
When does a medication error occur?
The error may occur when the medication is in the control of the health care provider, as a result of the doctor’s actions, or the mistake could be due to the clinic or hospital procedures and systems. It could happen at any of the following points:
- The labeling, naming or packaging of the drug by the manufacturer
- The compounding of the medication
- The communication of the order
- The dispensing and distribution of the medication
- The education provided to the patient on the medication’s use
Once the drug is at home with the patient, an error is still possible on the part of the physician if there is no appropriate follow-up and monitoring of the drug’s effects.
Patients may reduce their chance of an error by asking questions of the doctor and pharmacist, reading the information provided and staying in close contact with their doctor while they are taking the medication.