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The Ever Present Danger of a Prescription Medication Error

Anyone who has unknowingly been given the wrong prescription for medication or the wrong drugs or pills could be seriously harmed or even die. Adverse drug events (ADEs) are extremely common and can cause long lasting health issues for those who are affected.

The main sources of ADEs are as follows:

  • A physician prescribing the wrong medication, either because of the wrong diagnosis or a simple error, e.g. the correct drug, but the wrong dosage, or the correct dosage but the wrong drug.
  • A pharmacist or pharmacist’s assistant mixing up the prescription and delivering the wrong drug, or the correct drug at the wrong concentration, or both.
  • The use of a defective or untested drug.
  • An undetected or previously unnoticed allergy to a particular drug, precipitating a harmful reaction.

There are many reasons why a prescription error can take place. The physician may make a mistake when prescribing a drug. There are many drugs that have very similar names, yet are prescribed for very different conditions. Some examples are Hydralazine and Hydroxyzine; Navane and Norvasc, Paxil and Plavix, Lovenox and Levemir.

Pharmacists may be extremely busy and allocate prescriptions to pharmacists’ assistants. These assistants may have received insufficient training, or are too tired from overwork to make up the correct medication or misinterpret the prescription made by the physician.

Case study of a medication error

A 71year old woman was diagnosed as having acute kidney injury and uncontrolled hypertension amongst other health problems. She was prescribed a  drug called amlodipine (brand name Norvasc), as well as metroprolol, doxazosin and torsemide. Over the next 3 months her health deteriorated and she complained of lethargy, personality changes, fatigue and a stoic facial expression. It took several attempts to understand why she wasn’t responding to her medication before it was discovered that she had been prescribed the drug Navane instead of Norvasc. Navane is an anti-psychotic drug and totally usited to her health diagnosis. The Navane was replaced by Norvasc and her health improved. An investigation revealed that the mistake was made by her pharmacist and not by the physician whose prescription was entirely legible.

Adverse Drug Error Statistics

The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that nearly half of the entire U.S. population takes prescription medications of one sort or another in any given month. 125,000 hospital admissions every year are reported to be due to ADEs as well as 1 million visits to emergency departments.

Those most affected by ADEs are the elderly, those with limited fluency in English and of low socio-economic status.

CDC figures reveal that 7 million patients yearly suffer from prescription medication errors, costing up to 21 billion dollars in remedial treatment.

What to do if you suspect a prescription medication error

If you have been prescribed any sort of medication from your physician make sure that the drugs or pills that you obtain from your local pharmacy are the same as the prescription. This isn’t always easy, of course, but there is nothing wrong with querying what you receive if you think that a simple error has been made or you do not understand a difference in terminology used. If in doubt, go to another pharmacist or back to your physician taking the drugs with you to check that what you have been given is the correct drug(s) and the dosage prescribed.

If you feel ill as a result of the drugs you have been given or don’t think that your health issue is being resolved adequately, make sure you go back to the pharmacist to check on the prescription medication and to your physician but do take the drugs with you.

Serious health consequences may warrant a personal injury claim

If your health has been seriously compromised by a prescription medication error and you live in the Jackson metropolitan area you have the right to pursue legal action against the physician or pharmacist or other party who was responsible for the error. Contact a medical negligence lawyer at the Diaz Law Firm in Jackson on to discuss your legal options. Ring 601-607-3456 today.