Medication Errors

Picture-121-197x300In the United States, 1.5 million preventable adverse drug events occur every year —many of which result in permanent injury or death. Studies have demonstrated that the majority of medication errors are the result of errors made during by nurses or physicians related at the administration of medication.  The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCC MERP) defines a medication error as:

“A medication error is any preventable event 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. Such events may be related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing; order communication; product labeling, packaging, and nomenclature; compounding; dispensing; distribution; administration; education; monitoring; and use.”

In the nursing home setting, some of the more common medication errors include:

Failure to Consider Adverse Side Effects of Drugs

Many prescription (and over-the-counter) medications have serious side effects that should be considered before taking them. Some serious and common side effects include: allergic reactions, heart problems, liver and kidney failure, weight gain/loss, and psychological effects. The doctor prescribing your medication should consider the pros and cons of prescribing the medication as opposed to leaving the condition untreated or prescribing a different medication.  Similarly, the staff in a nursing home, should monitor patients to help detect adverse reactions as quickly as feasible.

Administering The Incorrect Prescription

Medication errors can result when there is a mis-communication or misunderstanding of drug orders. These errors may be due to: poor handwriting, confusion between drugs with similar names, misuse of zeroes and decimal points, confusion of metric and other dosing units, and inappropriate abbreviations.  Doctors must take reasonable care in correctly and accurately writing prescriptions and staff must similarly confirm medication types and dosages when in doubt.

Medication errors can also occur when doctors take an incomplete medical history from a patient. For example, the doctor might not know about the patient’s allergies, any other medications the patient is taking, previous diagnoses, and lab results.  Nursing homes should help treating physicians by ensuring that they provide the physician with accurate medical charts.

Incorrect Medication Dosage

Prescription medications have more serious dangers associated with them than over the counter (OTC) drugs. Therefore, it is important that nursing home staff issue the correct drug (the one the doctor prescribed) at the correct dose. At many nursing homes and medical facilities, medications are administered via a ‘medication cart’ where many similar-looking pills are stored.  Consequently, staff in nursing homes must check and re-check before administering medication to assure the patient receives the proper dosage.

Medical complications may arise when patients are administered too much or too little of a drug.  Many prescription medications require must be taken at a specific time, staff must be aware of these administration parameters and dispense the medication accordingly.

Adverse Drug Interactions

Many older adults, take multiple prescription medications, which are commonly prescribed my multiple doctors. However, problems can occur because the doctors prescribing these medications might not know about the other drugs you are taking.  This can lead to serious complications stemming from drug interactions. Drug-drug interactions are not the only type of potentially dangerous drug interactions; there can also be drug interactions with foods, beverages, and dietary supplements.

There are three main types of drug interactions:

  • Drugs with food and beverages
  • Drugs with dietary supplements
  • Drugs with other drugs

Drug interactions can reduce the effectiveness of drugs, cause unexpected side effects, or increase the action of a particular drug. Drug interactions with food and beverages might result in delayed, decreased, or enhanced absorption of a medication. Dietary supplements can also cause a variety of drug interactions, and with fifty percent of American adults using dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs or botanicals) on a regular basis, the risk of negative drug interactions is high.

Nursing Home Liability for Medication Errors

Medication error cases can frequently be some of the more complex cases due to the fact that a variety of parties may be responsible for the error(s).  In some cases, liability may be imposed on the physician, nursing home and pharmacy involved in the incident.  Consequently, in order to fully investigate each parties culpability, it is important to speak with a lawyer experienced in handling medication error cases as soon as feasible after the event. Our team of nursing home negligence attorneys, nurses and physicians have prosecuted medication error cases where patients have suffered serious injury or death. We handle these matters on a contingency basis– where a fee is never charged without a recovery for you. Call use anytime and begin the process of determining what occurred with your loved one. 888-424-5757

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