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Study Estimates More than 3 Million Prescription Errors in the U.S.

Prescription drugs have the potential to save lives and speed up recovery. However, prescription drug errors can cause serious injury, even death. As Miami medical malpractice lawyers, we wish that medication errors were rare, but a new study suggests that they are alarmingly widespread. According to two university estimates, roughly 3 million medication errors occur each year in the United States, harming tens of thousands of people.

Innovative Study

The study actually used data from Nova Scotia, Canada, which is the only province that requires reporting of medication errors. The reporting is anonymous, which gives medical providers an incentive to comply and provide accurate information.

The study found roughly 98,097 errors (called “quality-related events”) in Nova Scotia. Using these numbers, the authors extrapolated that roughly 3 million medication errors happen in the United States each year.

Of course, this is only an estimate. It might be the case that Canada sees more or fewer medication errors than the United States, so using Canadian data should be viewed with some caution. Nevertheless, the study suggests that medication errors are more widespread than many people have feared.

Types of Errors

The study identified 4 common errors made with prescriptions:

  • Wrong dose. A patient can be injured when the dose is either too strong or too weak. A weak dose, for example, will delay a person from recovering in a timely manner—or from recovering at all.
  • Wrong frequency. A patient might be told to take medication too frequently, which can lead to an overdose.
  • Wrong quantity. A drug that is too strong can easily lead to injury. A prescribing physician should choose a dose based upon the illness as well as the physical attributes of the patient.
  • Wrong drug. Some drugs can cause death, especially if the patient is allergic to them. A pregnant patient also could develop birth defects if not given the correct drug. Just as bad, a drug that has no effect at all will delay a patient’s recovery and possibly lead to death.

Fortunately, the study found that most errors are caught before they reach the patient–roughly 82%. Other errors are not significant enough to make a patient ill. However, the authors estimate that roughly 29,000 patients in the United States will suffer injuries due to medication errors, which can include death.

Contact One of Our Miami Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Medication errors are hard to detect. Often, a patient simply fails to get better before succumbing to their illness. To determine whether you have a claim, contact Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein today at 305-371-2692.