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Are Prescription Errors More Common Than You Think?

In 2013, almost 70% of the United States population was taking prescription drugs, 50% were taking two drugs at a time, and 20% were taking 5 or more. Considering the scope of individuals taking 5 or more medications at a time, it’s unsurprising that mistakes could occur in the prescription given by the physician, in the transferal of the order to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice, or in the distribution of the medication by hospital staff.

Adverse drug events (ADE) happen when patients are harmed because of exposure to a particular medication. ADEs account for almost 700,000 emergency visits and 100,000 hospitalizations a year. About 5% of people in hospitals also experience ADEs during their care. As many as 1.25 million errors occur annually. Studies also estimate that almost half of these accidents could be prevented by paying more attention.

What Causes Prescription Errors?

Sometimes mistakes in prescriptions are as easy to make as a doctor overlooking a medicinal allergy. For example, if a physician is unaware a person is allergic to Septra, an antibiotic containing sulfa, he or she may prescribe another sulfa-based medication that could cause hives, swelling around the head area, or difficulty breathing. However, liability becomes foggier the more people are involved. A doctor could recommend the correct drug for a patient, send it through the computer system to a pharmacist, or give it to a medical assistant who might do the transfer instead.

Percentage of error in the prescription order process:

  • Ordering – 39%
  • Order verification – 12%
  • Preparation and dispersal – 11%
  • Administration – 38%

In some lucky cases, these inaccuracies are unnoticed because they have no adverse effect on the patient. However, in other situations, these errors can be deadly. Elderly people and children are the most vulnerable groups. Seniors typically take more medications, increasing their likelihood of encountering a prescription error. On the other hand, doctors prescribe medication to children based on weight, meaning any more than the necessary amount might affect the child severely.

If you or someone you know has been injured by a prescription error, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact one of our Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Pratt Clay, LLC for a free consultation.