Medication Errors on the Rise

When your doctor writes you a prescription for a new medication, you expect it will help you get better, not worse.  Unfortunately, medication errors are on the rise.  The number of people treated in U.S.hospitals for problems related to medication errors has grown more than 50% in recent years.  More than half of this increase was due to corticosteroids, anticoagulants, sedatives, and hypnotics.  In 2008, drug-related reverse outcomes were discovered in nearly 1.9 million inpatient hospital stays and 838,000 emergency department visits.  In 2006, the Institute of Medicine issued a report citing medication errors as the most common medical errors, resulting in an estimated $3.5 billion in additional costs for lost wages, productivity, and health care expenses.

The American Hospital Association lists the following as common types of medication errors:

  1. incomplete patient information (some examples include, unknown information, such as patient allergies or list of other medications they are taking)
  2. unavailable drug information (not knowing warnings or side effects)
  3. miscommunication of drug orders, such as poor handwriting, confusing drugs with similar names, misuse of zeros and decimals, and inappropriate abbreviations
  4. environmental conditions, such as lighting, heat, noise, and interruptions, that can distract health care professionals
  5. lack of appropriate labeling as a drug is prepared and repackaged

Consumers can reduce their chance of injury or death as a result of medication errors by following these steps:

  • Before your doctor writes you a prescription and sends you home, make sure you find out the name of the drug and what it is used for.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Find out how to take the drug and make sure you clearly understand the directions.
  • Ask about possible side effects and what you should do if you begin to experience them.
  • Ask if there are foods or beverages you should avoid while on the medication and how it should be stored (room temperature or refrigerated).
  • Keep a detailed list of all medications that you are taking, as well as any dietary supplements, vitamins, herbs, laxatives, sleeping aids and birth control pills.
  • If you see multiple doctors, give them a list of all your medications.
  • Your doctor and pharmacist should also know about any medication allergies or drug interactions that you have experienced.
  • Get all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy, so that all your information is kept at one location.

With medication mistakes on the rise, it is very important that you take an active role in your medical care.  If you are ever in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  If you have already been injured as a result of a medication error or you would like to discuss medication errors, please contact Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers for a free consultation.

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