A medication error is any preventable error made in prescribing, administering, or otherwise providing patients with over-the-counter (OTC), prescription, or hospital medications.
Generally speaking, medication errors are classified into several main categories:
- Administration errors
- Filling/refilling errors
- Failure to comply with clinical advice/guidelines regarding medication use
- Improper modification of medication regimens
- Failure to report information to providers
- Improper aftercare/follow-up
Some specific examples of medication errors include:
- Prescribing or administering the wrong dose (over- or under-dose)
- Prescribing or administering the wrong medication or wrong formulation
- Prescribing or administering the wrong frequency of medication
- Prescribing or administering medication for an off label/untested use
- Delaying the administering or dispensing of medication
- Failing to obtain a patient’s informed consent
- Failing to obtain the patient’s full medical history, including medication allergies
- Failing to consider drug interactions/adverse drug interactions
- Failing to properly monitor/respond to adverse drug reactions
- Administering a drug incorrectly/via the wrong route (e.g., intravenously instead of orally)
- Providing the wrong patient with medication meant for another patient
- Anesthesia errors, epidural errors, and other hospital medication errors
Drug errors can occur in any medical setting, including in hospitals, emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, dental offices, and more. Unfortunately, these errors can have devastating or even deadly consequences.
How Do Medication Errors Happen?
Medication errors can result from individual practitioner carelessness or negligence but, more often, they are caused by systemic issues involving procedures, processes, and communication.
According to the NCBI, the most common causes of medication errors in the U.S. are:
- Distraction: The NCBI reported that as many as 75 percent of medication errors are caused by physician/medical provider distraction. Physicians can be distracted by numerous job-related and non-job-related activities, which can lead to all types of medication mistakes, from prescribing the wrong medication or dose to administering the wrong drug to a patient.
- Illegible Writing: Physicians’ notoriously poor handwriting is more than just a joke—it is a potentially life-threatening hazard that can lead to nurses, pharmacists, and others being unable to read prescriptions and, as a result, dispensing or administering the wrong medication or wrong dose to a patient.
- Distortions: Distortions occur when a patient is provided with a substitute medication that is not what the original provider originally ordered/prescribed. This might happen when a provider prescribes a drug that is not covered by the patient’s insurance or is not available in the U.S. It could also result from illegible handwriting or the use of abbreviations or symbols.
- Mistakes in Judgment: Many pharmaceutical drug errors result from poor judgment, including failure to foresee or identify adverse drug reactions/interactions, improper screening, insufficient review of drug utilization, or improper patient counseling/failing to provide sufficient information to the patient regarding the drug’s use and possible side effects.
- Mechanical Mistakes: Mechanical mistakes in pharmacies include errors in preparing and/or dispensing drugs, such as incorrect formulation, incorrect medication, incorrect dosage, incorrect frequency of dosage, or providing the wrong strength/quantity of a drug. Failing to give the patient proper instructions can also be considered a mechanical error.
- Poor Communication: Poor communication between departments or individual healthcare providers can lead to serious medication errors. For example, a hospital provider may fail to note that a patient has received a dose of medication in the patient’s chart, leading to the patient receiving an additional dose, which could lead to overdose.
In general, the vast majority of medication errors are the result of negligence. This includes systemic negligence, in which healthcare processes and procedures increase the risk of medication errors and associated injuries and deaths.
What to Do If You or Your Loved One Suffered Because of a Medication Error
If you suspect that your injuries or your loved one’s death was the result of a medication error, reach out to Wolf & Fuhrman LLP right away. Our medication error attorneys in the Bronx can review your case at no cost during a free and confidential consultation. If you have a viable case, we can immediately begin gathering important evidence and building your claim.
Right now, your focus should be on healing and getting back on your feet; let our team worry about your financial recovery. We are committed to securing the justice you deserve, as well as the maximum compensation you are owed. We fight to recover fair settlements for our clients so that they can get the critical medical care they need, manage everyday expenses while out of work, and successfully navigate their physical recoveries.