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Pharmacy Medication Dispensing Errors

According to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine Institutes of Health, medication dispensing processes in hospital pharmacies result in a large number of prescription errors with potential harm to patients. In the study, a total of 140,755 medication doses filled by pharmacy technicians were observed during a seven-month period, of which 5,075 contained errors. During routine verification, the hospital pharmacist detected only 79% of these errors, so that 0.75% of doses filled (over 1,000) would have left the pharmacy with undetected errors.

Of these undetected errors, 23.5% were found to be potential “adverse drug events” (ADEs), with 28% serious and 0.8% life threatening. The most common potential ADEs were:

  • Incorrect medications (36%)
  • Incorrect strength (35%)
  • Incorrect dosage form (21%)

Based on information from the Institute of Medicine, medication errors such as these harm an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States each year, resulting in approximately $3.5 billion in extra medical costs. As one researcher explained it in more personal terms, every hospital patient may be subjected to as much as one medication error each day.

Same-Sounding Drug Names Can Lead to Errors

At least one reason incorrect medications are given to patients is that many drug names sound and look alike. For example, Cerebyx, Celebrex, and Celexa are the very similar names of three very different medications. The first is used to treat seizures, the second to relieve pain and inflammation, and the final one to treat depression (see article, Enhanced Medication Safety). With names such as these, pharmacists and nurses may easily confuse unclear prescriptions because of the similarity in names or appearance.

Beyond similarly named drugs, another common type of miscommunication involves a medical provider’s failure to communicate with the patient regarding allergies, previous diagnoses and lab results, or other medicines that are being taken. Collecting this information is important so that clinicians can carefully consider potential contraindications and other medical concerns.

Pharmacy errors caused by misinterpretation and poor communication are preventable if proper measures are taken during the medication dispensing process, including better communication, better record keeping, and simply double checking prescriptions before they are handed over to patients.

Experienced Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney about Pharmacy Errors

If you or a loved one received an incorrect prescription from a hospital pharmacy, please contact Henry Spiegel Milling LLP at (404) 832-8000 for your free initial consultation. You can also use our email form to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.