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The unseen dangers of polypharmacy and medication errors

While many people equate medical malpractice with egregious errors such as surgical mistakes and missed diagnoses, the negligence can often be traced to numerous unexpected sources.

What many patients consider a simple process can become a dangerous hazard. In these situations, pharmacy errors and the hazards of polypharmacy can lead to devastating results.

As patients age and develop more serious conditions, it is not uncommon for numerous medications to be used in conjunction to either cure the illness or help individuals cope with painful symptoms. When patients are on several medications, this is referred to as polypharmacy.

While polypharmacy isn't a harmful strategy in itself, prescribing physicians and pharmacists alike must be careful to examine any potential trouble. There are three common causes for concern:

Adverse drug effects (ADE): An ADE often refers to an unexpected injury that results from the use of a drug. The ADE refers to harm caused by taking the drug even when taken in dosage indicated by the doctor. The potential for adverse drug effects increases as the amount of medications rises.

Drug interactions: Often referred to as drug-drug interactions, these events occur when two drugs taken together produce unforeseen side effects. Often, these medications are safe when taken separately, but the chemicals interact leading to effects such as increased blood pressure, delirium, nausea or damaged kidney function.

Prescribing cascades: Unfortunately, doctors will likely attempt to overcome the ADE or drug interaction by prescribing more medications. Additionally, the ADE might be seen as a new medical condition rather than a drug interaction or unforeseen side effect. Instead of correcting the problem by removing or substituting a medication, a new medication is added to the daily mixture.

Medical negligence and pharmacy errors can lead to devastating illnesses and worsening conditions. If a trusted medical professional fails to account for drug-drug interactions, the patient can suffer. If you or a loved one struggles with conditions related to polypharmacy, it is wise to discuss your situation with a legal professional.

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