Stethoscope and medications on a white background

Patients go to doctors with only one thing in mind: healing. Regardless of what reason they have, paying a visit to the clinic only means that a patient expects the doctor to treat them with utmost care, and rightfully so. Doctors are held to a high standard of knowledge and precision when it comes to treating people, as even the slightest mistake can result in life-threatening situations.

For instance, the opioid epidemic in America which has been ravaging the nation for decades now, started with doctors overprescribing the medications, along with the aggressive marketing by its manufacturer. It was only after a matter of time when opioids were declared as highly addictive, during which period, many have already succumbed to their addiction.

Today, people who survived opioid addiction are filing Opioid Epidemic lawsuits in order to seek compensation for the damages they have suffered from the addictive substance, and also to hold the manufacturer accountable for falsely marketing opioids as more effective and safer than other painkillers.

Towards the end of a medical check-up, a doctor will either refer a patient to a different department, recommend a procedure, or prescribe medications to their patients. This step concludes a day of doctor’s visit, yet it is a very crucial part of the process, and any mistakes committed during this step could mean unexpected consequences for both the doctor and the patient. 

What is a Medication Error?

Yellow, round medications on the floor

A medication error is a mistake committed at any point of the entire medication use process: from the doctor prescribing a certain medicine, to the distribution of the drug by the pharmacist, and the patient’s consumption of the medicine. 

These errors vary in type and severity, but more often, they are results of negligence in the part of the medical professional. And this dereliction of duty, whether committed through ill intent, or more commonly, through habitual slip-up, can pose great risks to patients. 

According to The Institute of Medicine, an estimated 1 out of 131 outpatient deaths and 1 out of 854 inpatient deaths have been caused by medication errors. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration receives more than 100,000 reports of medication errors from the U.S. alone.

Types of Medication Errors 

Medication errors can be caused by several factors which can also result in various consequences. As such, they can come in different types, like the ones mentioned below:

  • Giving the patient wrong medication
  • Mislabeling medication
  • Wrong time
  • Omission
  • Wrong dosage of medication
  • Administration errors such as extra dose, wrong rate, and incorrect route of administration
  • Prescribing a medication that reacts negatively with another one that the patient is taking

Causes of Prescription Drug Errors

Some reasons for medication errors include:

  • Distractions – Around 75% of prescription drug errors happen because of a distracted doctor. As physicians normally get themselves occupied with different duties and calls, that would mean that sometimes, they will mistakenly write a dosage or medication type. 
  • Poor Handwriting – With their use of short forms and abbreviations, physicians became infamous for their indecipherable handwriting on prescriptions. Unfortunately, this ceases to be a laughing matter when pharmacists try to guess the medication or its dosage, which can have serious risks to the patient. Thankfully, more prescriptions are done electronically today, which helps avoid this circumstance.

  • Loopholes in Communication – Poor communication can take place between the doctor and the patient, or between the physician and the pharmacy. Some names of prescription drugs do sound alike, and abbreviations can cause even more confusion, which can result in errors and possible injury to the patient. 

Errors may Result in Malpractice Lawsuits

Prescription of the right drug with the right dosage for the right disease is of the utmost importance. Not only to save lives, but also to prevent any lawsuits from being filed and brought to the attention of the court. 

Prescription drug errors can result in lawsuits against the doctor and the medical facility which can cost the hospital millions and medical professionals their medical license. 

Female doctor in white lab gown and mask

Not to mention, these malpractice lawsuits can be very costly. However, with the right amount of being attentive and being careful, doctors can completely avoid these claims from escalating. A better flow of communication between doctors and patients can also greatly help prevent drug interactions and medication allergies from happening. 

With all that being said, there still remains no magic formula to reduce medication errors. In fact, all members of the healthcare staff and even the administration should work hand in hand in order to completely avoid committing these errors, which could prove to be positive not only for medical professionals, but also for the patients whose health will be much taken care of without these avoidable errors.   


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