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Medication Errors

Medication errors are a form of general medical negligence. More than half of all medication errors result in serious illness or death. Medication errors injure approximately 1.25 million Americans every year. Medication errors are classified as any “preventable events that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.” Medication errors are also referred to as “adverse drug events,” which take the lives of roughly 7,000 patients per year, while sending nearly 700,000 people to the emergency room.

Generally speaking, medication mistakes can take place anywhere along the distribution process, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whether it is in prescription, dispensing, or monitoring.

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Common medication errors include:

  • Administration of the wrong medication

  • Administration to the wrong patient

  • Incorrect dosage

  • Medication inappropriate for condition

  • Medication inappropriate for the patient based on medical history

  • Multiple prescriptions given in inappropriate combinations

  • Emergency rooms administering pain medication to intoxicated patients

  • Administration of experimental drugs without patient consent


The risk of adverse drug reactions is present for a high number of people. Approximately 80 percent of Americans take prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, or supplements on a daily basis. More than one-third of Americans take at least five different medications regularly. It’s no surprise the rate of medication errors has doubled since 2000.

Although it may seem like consumers are more likely to make mistakes taking medications at home, the reality is hospitalized patients can expect to experience at least one medication error. According to the Institute of Medicine, at least 400,000 preventable drug-related injuries occur in hospitals each year. About twice as many occur in long-term care settings. Overall, medication errors cause 7,000 deaths per year.

Common Causes of Adverse Drug Reactions

There are limitless factors that can be pinned down as reasons medication errors happen, but the most frequent ones are the result of:

  • Poor communication between medical professionals and patients

  • Poor procedures and techniques

  • Poor labeling and packaging of medications

  • Poor handwriting

  • Failure to fully review patients’ medical records for drug allergies

  • Failure to fully review patients’ medical records for other prescriptions

  • Failure to adjust doses according to health changes in patient

  • Inadequate warnings provided by drug manufacturers


Medical professionals also blame other factors, such as job stress, insufficient product data, or lack of training.

Common Reactions to Medication Errors

Adverse reactions can be many and far-ranging, but include:

  • Unimproved condition

  • Deteriorating condition

  • Delayed recovery and/or extended hospital stay

  • Serious allergic reactions

  • Digestive problems

  • Seizures

  • Brain injury

  • Paralysis

  • Unexpected temporary physical or mental impairment

  • Overdose

  • Kidney damage

  • Liver damage

  • Heart attack

  • Permanent disability

  • Death


Who Is Responsible for Medication Errors?

Since medication errors can occur in so many ways, it can often be a challenge to figure out who is the responsible party. For example, a doctor may have made an error in prescribing, or the prescription may have been correct, but administered improperly, or a drug might lack the proper warnings to alert health care professionals and patients to unique dangers. These are just a few reasons it can be difficult to determine who is at fault. Responsible parties may include:

  • Doctors

  • Nurses

  • Dentists

  • Psychiatrists

  • Hospital staff

  • Emergency room staff

  • Nursing home staff

  • Pharmacists

  • Drug manufacturers


General medical negligence does not always result in an injury, but it can very easily cause serious harm or even death. If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or been killed as a result of a medication error, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss, including:

  • Current and future medical bills

  • Rehabilitation

  • Special education needs

  • Long-term care

  • Current and future loss of income

  • Pain and suffering

  • Loss of enjoyment of life

  • Loss of companionship

  • Funeral expenses


A Burg Simpson Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help

If you or a loved one have sustained a serious injury due to medication errors, contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Burg Simpson to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. We will review all the facts of your case. Call us at (866) 234-7768 or fill out our FREE case evaluation form now.

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