Once upon a time, physicians had to write out every prescription by hand — and a doctor’s lousy penmanship could easily lead to dangerous errors. These days, most prescriptions are either printed out from a computer or electronically transmitted directly to the pharmacy of your choice.
That doesn’t mean your worries are over. Pharmacy and prescription errors can still happen at every stage of the process. Studies indicate that preventable pharmacy errors injure at least seven million people every year.
What are some of the most common medication errors?
Prescription errors can still occur in your doctor’s office. It’s far too easy for a doctor to make a mistake and type in the wrong drug name or the wrong dosage. More often, however, pharmacy errors occur when the drugs are dispensed. Some of the most frequent errors include:
- Wrong doses: Putting too high of a dose on something like a child’s cough medication could be deadly — so could putting too low of a dose on someone’s heart medication.
- Vague instructions: When a physician’s order is vague, pharmacists should clarify the dosing instructions. No prescription, no matter how obvious it may seem, should say “as directed.”
- Wrong drug: There are plenty of drugs out there that are dangerously close in spelling or sound. When a pharmacist is tired or rushed, for example, it’s easy to mix up drugs like bupropion and buspirone.
- Wrong patient: When a pharmacist isn’t diligent, the wrong bag of drugs can be handed out to a waiting patient whose name is the same or similar to another patient’s name.
- Missed drug allergies or interactions: Pharmacists are supposed to make certain that your known allergic reactions are coded into their system and drugs are screened for those additives. If they ignore a red flag, they can put a patient in mortal peril.
A pharmacy error can leave you or your loved one with devastating injuries. To provide for the future, it’s wise to get knowledgeable advice on what steps you should take next.