Medication errors are quite common — and they can be fatal.
Approximately 1.5 million people are harmed in the United States each year by medication errors, according to a 2006 study. When those errors are the result of negligence on the part of medical personnel, and cause harm to a patient, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be appropriate.
Medication errors can happen in several different ways. The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention defines the term medication error as any preventable event, while the medication is in the control of health care professionals, that could lead to an adverse outcome for a patient. This may include a patient being prescribed the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. If the prescription is correct, the patient may nevertheless have the wrong drug or dose administered in the hospital. Medication errors also may arise because of faulty product labeling or packaging.
Administering the wrong dose is the most common type of medication mistake, accounting for 41 percent of medication errors that resulted in death, according to an FDA study. Administering the incorrect type of medication accounted for 16 percent of fatal errors, and using the wrong route of administration also accounted for 16 percent of errors. People over age 60, who often have multiple prescriptions, are particularly at risk, accounting for nearly half of deadly medication errors.
Patients can protect themselves against medication errors by always asking the name of the drug, correct dosage and the reason for taking it, both when the medication is prescribed and when it is administered. Patients who have been harmed by a medication error should contact a medical malpractice attorney.