In this series we show you the importance of being your own advocate when it comes to your health and the many ways you can prevent common medical errors.

Why should you take charge?

Medical errors are considered the third leading cause of death in the United States. The American Association for Justice estimates that 440,000 errors resulting in death occur each year. We’ve learned a thing or two after handling medical malpractice cases for more than 30 years. We’ve learned that while medicine is complex, errors often can be prevented in simple, common sense ways. When you take charge of your own medical information you can actually decrease the odds it will happen to you.

Advocacy Series Highlight-  Pharmaceutical Errors

For the millions of us who take prescription medications regularly to alleviate or manage illnesses, medication is a convenient, noninvasive way to get treatment. But for the many people affected by medication errors each year, their prescription has harmed them more than it has helped. The FDA receives over 100,000 reports annually on medication errors, and they have identified the most severe consequences of the errors to include disability, birth defects, and death. A staggering 1 million people each year are severely injured or killed by these mistakes.

How do pharmacy errors commonly happen?

Pharmaceutical errors can take place at multiple points in the prescription process, namely when the doctor is writing/entering the prescription and when the pharmacist is filling it. The most common point in the process where mistakes occur is at the doctor’s office. When the medication is being prescribed, the doctor may accidentally write/enter the wrong drug name or dosage. The pharmacist may also misinterpret the doctor’s handwriting or abbreviation and give the incorrect drug or dosage. Mistakes in dosage are the most common pharmaceutical error.

How can you be your own advocate?

Given that many errors occur in the communication process between the doctor and the pharmacist the best thing you can do is get involved in the process. If your doctor uses an electronic health record, ask for a copy of the prescription. If the prescription is handwritten make sure you can read it and know what is prescribed. Log on to your health care record portal and see what medication was prescribed and at what dose. Check that against what you receive at the pharmacy. Take nothing for granted.

When your doctor is giving you a new prescription, it is always good to make sure you have an answer to these questions:

  • What is the name (brand and generic) of the drug?
  • What is the dosage?
  • What are the normal side effects?
  • Will this medication interact with any other medications I take? What times should I take each of these medications?
  • Should I avoid any activities while on this medication?

If you have suffered a serious injury after being given the wrong medication, call us to discuss what legal options you have.

Sites referenced:

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-information-consumers/working-reduce-medication-errors

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/medication-errors/art-20048035

https://www.justia.com/injury/medical-malpractice/common-types-of-medical-malpractice/medication-errors/