Prescription medication can play a vital role in treating and managing a variety of serious conditions. However, their efficacy can have a negative impact in the case of incorrect use. Unfortunately, several types of prescription errors continue to result in suffering and even permanent health effects for patients throughout the United States.
The results of taking the wrong medication can be severe. Patients may experience allergic reactions or harmful side effects. Some medications may permanently damage previously unaffected organs or exacerbate the course of an existing illness. According to the Federal Drug Administration, one person dies every day because of a medication error and 1.3 million people per year suffer injuries.
Doctors prescribe the wrong medicine
Sometimes, doctors prescribe the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of the correct medication. They may do this because they misdiagnosed your condition. They may also fail to take into account other health conditions or treatment regimens that could react adversely with an otherwise appropriate medication.
This type of wrong prescription has a higher likelihood of happening at a hospital or a nursing home. Both of these are facilities where doctors routinely see large numbers of patients whom they do not know, without always accessing complete information about their medical histories.
Pharmacists may dispense the wrong drug
On the other end of the prescription drug pipeline, the dispensing pharmacist may receive the correct prescription but give an incorrect medication or the wrong dosage. This can happen due to human error, but also because of illegible physician handwriting or a computer coding error.
Manufacturing or packaging mistakes also occur
In some cases, the drug manufacturer or distributor may bear responsibility for mislabeling or defective manufacture.
Electronic Health Records help, but not enough
The increasingly widespread adoption of electronic health records, or EHRs, helps any provider access complete medical records. Studies predict this will continue to lower prescription error rates. Using electronic prescriptions can also reduce mistakes due to bad handwriting.
However, even electronic records are only as reliable as the humans who use them, so providers who mistakenly enter wrong information or neglect to complete their records may cause prescription errors and other mistakes in the course of diagnosis and treatment.