Medication Errors on the Rise

The number of people visiting hospitals as a result of medication errors has increased by about fifty percent over the past five years. The rise of mistakes in prescribing and administering drugs, whether by a medical professional, caregiver, or patient, is a growing cause for concern in the medical community. Medication errors range from wrong dosing to adverse interactions with other drugs. Many times, communication between medical practitioners, pharmacists, and patients plays a large role in these errors. Of the 92 percent of patients hospitalized for medication side effects or allergic reactions, approximately seven percent had taken or were given the wrong drug or dose. Overdosing can cause traumatic long-term conditions or even death. If you take medications or are responsible for someone who does, understanding the risks of medication errors is essential.

Common Misuse

As all drugs are highly complex substances, adverse reactions commonly occur due to misunderstanding of dosing and timing. Taking a medication at the wrong time, missing doses, or discontinuing a medication too soon all contribute to the risk. Certain drugs that are highly misused are:

  • Arthritis medications – These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and joint pain affect approximately 70 million Americans. Over-prescribing by physicians, as well as general patient misuse, causes side effects including gastrointestinal bleeding and peptic ulcers. Approximately 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths occur annually as a result of these types of drugs.
  • Antibiotics – These have been notoriously over-prescribed and wrongly-prescribed in recent years. Used to fight bacterial-related illness, approximately 23 million patients have been improperly prescribed antibiotics for viral infections. Viral infections, such as upper respiratory infections, colds, and bronchitis are unaffected by antibiotics. In addition to the negative side effects of over-prescribed antibiotics, certain bacterial strains have become resistant to antibiotics because of their overuse. This makes fighting certain illnesses more difficult than ever.
  • Insulin – A necessity for patients with type 1 diabetes, preventable errors are commonly linked to insulin’s preparation and administration. Overdosing causes severe hypoglycemic reactions including seizures, coma, or even death. Under-dosing may result in ketoacidosis, which prevents the transfer of sugar from the blood into the body’s cells. This starves the cells and creates a negative domino effect in the body. Both hospitals and patients at home contribute to the high percentage of errors involving insulin.
  • Blood thinners, heart and blood pressure medications, pain relievers, and cancer drugs – These have also been common causes of medication errors in hospitals and at home.

What Can You Do?

The best defense you have as a patient and consumer is to be educated on the medication you are prescribed and to communicate regularly with your physician and pharmacist. Here are some helpful hints:

  • Provide a list of all your medications so that your doctor can avoid contraindications and harmful interactions. Include over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, and supplements.
  • Before leaving the doctor’s office, make sure any handwritten scripts and directions are legible. If not, clarify with your physician.
  • To confirm your name and the prescription, always read labels before taking a medication.
  • Never hesitate to ask the doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects.

Horn Law – Personal Injury Lawyers in Kansas and Missouri

Medication errors can result in high medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. If you live in the Midwest region and have questions regarding this type of medical malpractice, Horn Law has offices in Independence, Overland Park, Crown Center, and KC Northland. Our lead litigation attorney Laurie Del Percio has been voted “Best in the Bar” from 2009 through 2014. Her experience defending insurance agencies provides her with valuable insight in medical malpractice and injury cases. Contact Horn Law today for a free consultation.