medication errors rose by fifty percent in recent years

Between 2004 and 2008 the number of patients who had to receive treatment in a hospital because of a medication error increased by more than fifty percent. In 2004, the number of people who were injured or got sick because they were given the wrong dose or the wrong type of medication was 1.2 million. By 2008 that number had reached 1.9 million.

This medication error data, collected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, made no distinction between a physician giving incorrect medication instructions and mistakes in carrying out the instructions by a pharmacist or a nurse. In fact, there was no distinction between these possibilities and a patient intentionally or unintentionally taking the wrong medication or the wrong dose of a prescribed medication at home.

Because the data is so unspecific, it could be argued that the increase may be accounted for by patient errors, and not necessarily negligence on the part of health care providers. Believing that may provide some comfort to medical personnel, but even if it were more than just an argument, the fact is that more patients are suffering from medication errors. Better safeguards need to be put in place, even if they are established in order to save patients from their own medication mistakes.

Pennsylvania medication error attorneys are aware of the real costs of medication errors. For instance, a 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine estimated that medication errors cost patients $3.5 billion in lost wages, lost productivity and additional health care expenses.

The recommendation at that time was for better communication between medical personnel and patients, in the form of drug information resources that would be available and understandable to a layperson. Also recommended were electronic prescriptions (to avoid misunderstandings of doctors’ scrawls on paper), and better naming, labeling and packaging of drugs in order to avoid confusion. Even though there has been progress on implementing these measures, the data shows that there is still a long way to go to turn the tide on medication errors.

According to the A.H.R.Q. data, patients over 65 years of age were the most likely to suffer from injuries related to medication errors, with young people being the next most likely victims. Nearly twenty percent of medication errors affected minors.

The drugs most frequently involved in medication errors were corticosteroids (typically for asthma or arthritis), pain relievers, blood thinners, cancer drugs and heart and blood pressure medicines.

Source: feelbetter4life “Medication-Related Injuries on the Rise” 4/14/2011

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