Medication does many wonderful things for many people, but it also has a dangerous side.
Prescription drugs are powerful and often carry with them dangerous side effects, which is why they are only dispensed through medical professionals. What’s even more harmful, though, is when a patient receives the wrong drug or wrong dosage.
When prescription drug errors occur and medication falls into the wrong hands, the consequences can be dire. Most of us know that this can happen, but feel that it is unlikely to happen to us. The sobering fact is more than 1.5 millionAmericans are injured every year from prescription drug mistakes. How does it happen and what can we do to prevent these types of errors from happening to us?
When we take a closer look at the prescription process it becomes clear how errors can occur. There are so many steps involved and so much room for human inaccuracy. The physician must first select a drug and write a prescription, which is then interpreted by the pharmacy, filled by the pharmacist and then dispensed to the patient. As one can see, there is a lot of room for error; the doctor could make a mistake in selecting or writing the prescription, the pharmacy could misread the prescription or confuse it with one for another patient, or they could just hand you the wrong drug. There is also risk when receiving medication in the hospital, particularly when drugs are selected quickly during an emergency situations.
So what can be done to improve the safety of prescription drug dispensing and administering? Some improvements to the system have already been put into place, but there is still much more room for improvement and many things that patients or caregivers can do to protect themselves and those they love.
Many doctors are now preparing prescriptions on the computer to help reduce problems with misinterpretation of the prescription by the pharmacy. For their part, pharmacies now have computer systems in place to check dangerous drug interactions for each patient. Hospitals have also started to incorporate more advanced drug dispensing systems to help prevent overdose and drug mix-ups. These advances do not completely eliminate the issue, but are a good first step.
As a patient, parent or caregiver there are some things to check before using a prescription drug. Always be sure to verify that the name, doctor’s name are correct and that the drug expiry date has not passed. If possible, go online and check that the prescribed medication is used to treat the condition it is being given for; some very different medications have similar names and can be confused. Also, if the information is available, check that the dosage seems reasonable.
Of course, we still need to put some level of trust into our medical professionals, but being alert and aware whenever possible will help reduce pharmacy mistakes. If you or a loved one has been harmed by medical malpractice involving prescription errors, our pharmacy mistake lawyers will assess your case free of charge.