Prescription drugs help protect the health of millions of people worldwide. These pharmacological products need to be dispensed properly, when needed (in a timely manner), and likewise, discontinued when no longer needed. As consumers of health care, we trust our doctors, pharmacists, and other medical professionals to ensure that we receive the correct medications needed to treat our conditions, in the correct dosages, administered in a timely manner and for the correct duration of time. Unfortunately, medication errors are one of the most common errors made within the medical profession. Contraindicated medications are prescribed, and/or dosage errors are made. Pharmacies may dispense a medication different from that which was prescribed or in the wrong dosage or with instructions in error. These errors may result in significant injuries or death.
What Constitutes a Medication Error?
According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, a medication error is any preventable event that can result in the improper use of a prescription drug by a patient or physician. These errors are sometimes related to manufacturing and packaging, but other times, physician inattentiveness or inexperience can lead to such a scenario. The council also states that a medication error can result from the improper dispensing, distribution, or compounding of medicine by a pharmacist.
Advice for Checking Prescriptions at Pharmacies
It is well advised to know the name of the medication you are filling, what the dosage should be (i.e., 25 mg), and how many times each day you are supposed to take the meds, (and, if applicable, at what time of day taken and whether with food or on an empty stomach). It is important to know that information BEFORE you fill a prescription at a pharmacy. If possible, always check the medications you’ve received at a Pharmacy BEFORE you leave, (checking the identifying numbers and letters on pills if applicable) and the instructions on the container/bottle or vial for taking it. If anything differs from your understanding and the information you already know about your prescribed medication, ask the pharmacist. Proactively, it is simple from a smart phone to check the numbers on a pill. For example, if you “Google” IP 178, it is easily identifiable as Metformin Extended Release 500 mg tablets (a common diabetes medication used by millions of people in the U.S.). Though it often is not possible to do, these efforts may help protect you from careless and negligent medication errors so prevalent in our healthcare industry today.
In 2006, a report titled “Preventing Medication Errors” was released by the Institute of Medicine. This study documented cases of errors involving prescription medications. Aside from noting that most errors go unnoticed, this report also included several unsettling national statistics:
- Between 26% and 32% of medication errors are classified as “administration errors.” This means that either physicians or nurses are responsible for prescribing or administering the incorrect drug.
- Each year, in the United States alone, nearly 1.5 million patients are harmed by medication errors.
- Nearly $3.5 billion dollars are lost each year due to medication errors (causing a need for expenditure of money to treat patient conditions arising out of the error, lost income etc.)
If you or someone you love has suffered and injury due to a medication error, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice and/or pharmacy negligence claim. At Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari, the New Jersey medication error attorneys have decades of experience handling claims of this nature. Call us today at (973) 635-5400.