Opioid shortage has increased risk of medication errors, say experts

Opioid shortage has increased risk of medication errors, say experts

Hospitals are struggling with a worrying shortage of crucial painkillers administered to patients suffering from acute pain, battling cancer or undergoing surgery. A nationwide opioid shortage has left doctors and pharmacists unable to obtain sufficient injectable drugs like fentanyl and morphine.

Authorities have attributed the opioid shortage to manufacturing problems, as well as the government’s efforts to curb addiction. Hospital pharmacists in Illinois, California and other states are being forced to find other options, which has increased the risk of dosage errors that can harm patients.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices said nurses are resorting to using second-choice drugs or administering standard painkillers differently. In addition, medical professionals are directing low opioid supplies to higher-priority cases and giving certain patients less-potent painkillers. Some hospitals are even going as far as postponing elective surgeries.

The nonprofit institute cited an example from last year in which a patient was given five times the required morphine dosage when a smaller vial was unavailable. During a previous opioid shortage, in 2010, two patients died due to overdoses from a potent opioid while another individual received inaccurate doses.

Determining correct dosages can be challenging. Experts say even the smallest mistakes by pharmacists, nurses or doctors have the potential to cause serious harm, or death in some cases.

The American Hospital Association and other medical groups wrote a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in February. In it they described opioid shortages as “potentially life-threatening” since they can lead to medical mistakes.

Pharmaceutical errors are a form of medical malpractice. If you have suffered harm due to a pharmacist’s prescription or medication error, contact the experienced attorneys at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. Our attorneys are ready to help you secure the compensation you deserve.

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