How common are medication errors?

Chris Davis
Award-winning personal injury attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, Washington.

Most people trust that the medication that they receive from the pharmacy or treatment nurse is just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, problems with the wrong medication or wrong dosage being dispensed cause numerous serious injuries and cost many lives each year. According to the Institute of Medicine, every year 1.5-million patients suffer from mistakes with the medicine they're given.

An Auburn University study projected the odds of being the victim of a prescription error that results in a serious, health-threatening issue is about 1 in 1,000, a rate that could amount to 3.7 million such errors a per year.
Causes of Medication Errors

• Poor pharmacy management at hospitals and drug stores
• Failing to check prescriptions for accuracy
• Failing to check potential drug interactions for the patient
• Incorrect directions for drug use on labels
• Confusing similar drug names
• Use of pharmacy technicians that have much less training than pharmacists
• Failing to offer face-to-face counseling for new prescriptions between pharmacist and patient as required by laws in 48 states
• Failure to use computer programs designed to warn about drug interactions
• Patient information leaflets containing out of date information about drugs
• Hospital pharmacies being subcontracted out to companies resulting in little communication between hospital staff and pharmacy staff
• Pharmacist or pharmacy technician enters wrong dosage into computer
• Poor maintenance of pharmacy mixing machines
• Nurses in hospitals failing to check the medication going into IV lines
• Pharmaceutical companies labeling different medications similarly and confusingly