Medication errors can have potentially deadly consequences and every 21 seconds these mistakes cause someone in the U.S. to call poison control. The errors most commonly recorded include incorrect dosages, incorrect administration, ingestion or administration of “double doses,” and taking the wrong medication. Doctors and other healthcare providers, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, and others can be held liable when medication errors lead to injuries.
From 2000 to 2012, individuals contacted Poison Control Centers at total of 67,603 times following pharmaceutical exposures that caused negative medical outcomes. Over the 13 year period reported, there was a 100% increase in the number of reports received. Of the total number of reports of prescription medication errors, 5.8% had serious effects while .6% resulted in death.
What’s Left off the Label
Only 15% of pharmaceutical companies in the United States adhere to established labeling regulations. In the US, labeling regulations are loosely enforced and provide considerable leeway regarding what information must be included on the label. In regard to terminology, directions, and potentially harmful interactions, the latitude granted to pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors can place patient health and safety at risk.
The lack of adherence to labeling standards means many patients may be taking medications that cause allergic reactions, trigger side effects, or amplify the effects of existing health conditions or other medications within the bloodstream.
The Most Dangerous Medications
The pharmaceutical medicationsthat pose the greatest danger are cardiovascular drugs which account for 20.6% of reports, analgesic pain relievers including opioids and acetaminophen which account for 12% of reports, and hormones/hormone antagonists including insulin and sulfonylurea which account for 11% of reports. As the number of prescriptions for these types of drugs increases, it is expected that the number of calls fielded by poison control centers, and the number of people injured and killed by prescription medication errorswill also increase.
Liability for Errors
Liability for prescription medication errorscan fall upon physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers responsible for the patient’s care. It may also fall upon the pharmaceutical company if the directions to physicians or labeling does not recommend the correct dosages or account for potentially harmful drug interactions.