Prescription Drug Errors Injure Hundreds of Thousands Every Year

prescription drug errors

According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), prescription drug errors are the direct cause of at least 1.3 million injuries every year in the United States. These injuries cost the medical system $3.5 billion in extra medical costs annually. A prescription drug or medication error is any preventable action that may cause or lead to improper use of medication or injury to the patient while the medication is in the control of the manufacturer, medical professional, dispenser, patient or consumer.

Prescription drug injury statistics

  • In the nation’s hospitals, approximately one medication error occurs per patient per day, accounting for 400,000 drug-related injuries each year.
  • Long-term care settings like nursing homes are responsible for another 800,000 drug-related injuries annually.

What are the causes of prescription drug errors?

Medication errors happen for a variety of reasons along the chain of distribution:

Packaging/labeling errors are manufacturing errors that lead to confusion among those prescribing and dispensing the drugs. The most common problems are ambiguous product names and directions or mislabeled dosage information.

Prescription errors including wrong dosage or inappropriate drug account for 20-60 percent of all medication errors. This type of mistake is caused by inexperience, job stress, fatigue or lack of training/product knowledge by the prescribing medical professional.

Dispensing errors account for six to 12 percent of all medication errors. The issue arises when a pharmacist or pharmacy tech dispenses the wrong drug because they misread the prescribing physician’s abbreviations or writing, give incorrect instructions to the consumer, dispense the drug to the wrong patient or dispense the wrong dosage.

Administering errors are caused by nursing personnel in hospitals, care facilities or during home care visits. The errors are most often caused by poor communication with the prescribing physician, high patient or staff turnover and under-staffing or stress that leads to incorrect procedures or techniques.

Monitoring errors occur in hospitals, in-patient or home care situations. They typically happened because of improperly trained staff, lack of proper procedures or techniques, poor communication among team members, high patient or staff turnover or under-staffing/stress issues.

Patient error or misuse is typically caused by poor understanding of label directions or medical professional’s instructions.

How are national organizations working to reduce prescription drug injuries?

The Center for Drug Administration and Research (CDER) addresses medication errors as follows:

  • Prevent medication errors before a drug is approved and put on the market by analyzing drug names and labeling to reduce confusion.
  • Use prescription drug error reports submitted to the FDA to evaluate, monitor and take action.
  • Educate and provide feedback to medical professionals.
  • Share information with outside organizations who work to prevent and reduce medication errors.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) recommends that medical professionals use the “five rights” approach to reduce medication errors: the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route at the right time.

The IHI recognizes that the “five rights” isn’t a 100 percent safeguard solution. The “five rights” only addresses individual performance; it doesn’t account for human factors such as fatigue or miscommunication between physicians and nurses or system defects that may make following the five tasks difficult or impossible. The IHI stresses that nurses must report system issues that are preventing them from completing the five tasks correctly.

If you or a loved one was injured as a result of a prescription drug error, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer today. You may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of consortium and more.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at (206) 752-4366 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.