The Dangers of Medication Errors

Millions of Americans around the country depend on the medications each day. In some cases, these are over-the-counter medications, but this also includes prescription medications to help with conditions such as high blood pressure, blood sugar issues, heart medication, cancer medications, weight loss prescriptions, and more. 

Medications keep people healthy, and they can extend their quality of life. However, there are significant dangers involved with medications, particularly when a mistake is made. Data shows that anywhere between 7,000 and 9,000 people lose their lives each year as a result of a medication error, and thousands of others experience adverse reactions and other complications.

Common Mediation Errors That Affect Californians

Some of the most common medication errors that can affect patients include:

  • Giving the wrong medication. Administering the wrong medication to a patient can occur due to various reasons, such as similar-looking or similar-sounding medication names, misinterpretation of handwriting, or confusion during medication administration. This error can lead to adverse reactions or ineffective treatment.
  • Giving the incorrect dosage of a medication. Mistakes in dosage can happen when healthcare professionals miscalculate or misinterpret the prescribed dose, leading to underdosing or overdosing. Administering an incorrect dosage can have serious consequences, including a lack of therapeutic effects or harmful side effects.
  • Failing to provide pain medication to a patient. Failure to administer a prescribed medication can occur due to human error, miscommunication, or distractions. Skipping a dose or forgetting to administer medication can disrupt a patient’s treatment plan and compromise their health.
  • Drug-on-drug interactions. Certain medications can interact with each other, leading to adverse effects or decreased effectiveness. Healthcare providers need to be aware of potential interactions and consider a patient’s complete medication profile to avoid prescribing combinations that could be harmful.
  • Allergic reactions to a medication. Administering a medication to which a patient is allergic can cause severe allergic reactions, ranging from skin rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Accurate documentation of allergies and thorough medication reviews are essential to prevent such errors.
  • Incorrect medication delivery. Administering a medication through the wrong route, such as giving an oral medication intravenously, can result in ineffective treatment or harm to the patient. Following proper administration guidelines and double-checking the route can help prevent this error.
  • Wrong patient. Administering medication to the wrong patient can occur during busy or high-stress situations, especially when patient identification protocols are not followed strictly. This error can lead to the patient receiving the wrong medication, resulting in potential harm or adverse reactions.
  • Medications that look or sound alike. Medications with similar names or packaging can be easily confused, leading to medication errors. Healthcare professionals must exercise caution, double-check the medication labels, and use technologies like barcode scanning to minimize the risk of confusion.
  • Lack of patient education. Insufficient patient education about medication usage, potential side effects, or precautions can lead to misuse or non-compliance. Providing clear instructions and counseling patients on their medications can empower them to take an active role in their treatment and reduce the risk of errors.

Why Medication Errors are so Dangerous

Johns Hopkins researchers have found that medical mistakes contribute to around 250,000 deaths each year in the US, making this the third leading cause of death. There is no hard data on how many of these deaths or injuries are related to medication errors, but it is important to understand that the vast majority of medical mistakes go unreported, particularly if they do not lead to a fatality.

If you or somebody you love has been injured due to a medication error, we encourage you to reach out to a medical malpractice attorney for assistance as soon as possible.