The mis-presciption of medicine, or prescription drug error, happens all too often in this country. Studies show that almost 1 in 5 U.S. prescriptions contain some type of mistake, with prescription drug errors harming over 1.5 million people in this country each year, causing the deaths of 98,000 people annually. (For details regarding these studies, please refer to the research done by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2006 and the 2002 Auburn University study of drug error).
According to the Institute of Medicine, 4 out of 5 Americans takes at least one drug or dietary supplement every day; almost a third taking over five of them daily. Obviously, with each medication or supplement that is ingested, the risk of a dangerous interaction of chemicals increases. There is no law that demands a physician be aware of all the medications that his patient is taking; therefore, there are many occasions when a doctor prescribes a drug without full knowledge of everything else that the patient is ingesting on a daily basis.
Drug companies, likewise, are not required by law to coordinate their efforts. This has resulted in a huge volume of prescription drugs available in the United States that carry confusing, almost identical names – but which treat very different conditions. For example, the following drugs have resulted in serious harm or death to patients, all because there was confusion in the nomenclature:
Premarin (hormone) – Primaxin (antibiotic)
Flomax (prostrate) – Volmax (bronchospasm)
Serzone (antidepressant) – Seroquel (schizophrenia)
Iodine (salt) – Lodine (non-steroidal anti-inflamatory)
Omacor (cholesterol) – Amicar (blood-clotting)
Lamictal (epilepsy) – Lamicsil (antifungal)
Zyrtec (antihistamine) – Zyprexa (schizophrenia).
Mistakes by the Pharmacist
Often, drug errors are made at the pharmacy, as the pharmacist makes a dispensing error. Dispensing errors include giving the incorrect medication, or providing for an incorrect dosage. (In many cases, this results from the druggist misreading the doctor’s handwriting.) Sometimes, drugs get the wrong labels. Other times, a proper prescription is handed over to the wrong customer.
Mistakes by the Doctor
Doctor error can result in serious harm when a mis-prescription is involved. Physician errors include not considering the interaction of drugs that the patient is taking when prescribing a medication, as well as failing to advise patients of drug interactions and potential side effects. Doctor errors also include writing prescriptions in the incorrect dosage for a patient, or prescribing the wrong drug.
Mistakes by the Health Care Facility
Hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics are also responsible for many prescription drug errors. The staff at clinics or hospitals may administer an improper dosage of drugs, or give the wrong drug to a patient by mistake, confusing either the patients or the meds.
Nursing homes and extended-care facilities also cause mis-prescription harm. Here, many employees are not trained to the same level as those of many hospitals and clinics. Unknowingly, they can give drugs to patients without any conception of how the medicine may impact the patient, particularly when the patient is taking a number of medications. They can also err in the dosage and the type of drug administered to the patient, with sometimes serious and deadly results.
Free Initial Consultation for Those Who May Have Been Injured by a Prescription Drug Error
If you or someone you love has been injured as the result of a prescription drug error, please feel free to contact our offices to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys. Additionally, for more information online about medicine mistakes and mis-prescriptions, please check out the following websites:
Institute for Safe Medication Practices
Consumer Med Safety
Food & Drug Administration