According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, approximately 1.5 million people are affected by medication errors each year in the U.S., at a cost of around $3.5 billion. This makes medication errors one of the most common types of medical error, and one of the most costly.
Medication errors can be defined as any preventable events leading to the misuse of medication. While a number of factors can cause medication errors, they are most commonly the result of poor communication, either between healthcare providers or between providers and patients. They can happen in the hospital, at your doctor’s office, at the pharmacy and even at home.
Fortunately, no one is helpless to prevent medication errors. There are a number of ways you can avoid injury or death from accidental misuse of medication:
- Up to 25 percent of medication errors are caused by similar-sounding drug names leading to confusion at the doctor’s office or the pharmacy. Take time to clarify which medicine you’re supposed to take, how to spell its name and what exactly the medication is used for.
- Taking medications with similar side effects can lead to those side effects being especially severe. Similarly, taking multiple medications containing similar properties can result in an overdose. Be aware of how the drugs you’ve been prescribed might interact with one another.
- Dosage errors — either the wrong amount of medicine taken at once or too many doses in too short a time — can result from confusing or unclear use of abbreviations, unclear instructions or illegible handwriting. These seemingly simple mistakes can have serious consequences for the patient. Always verify dosage recommendations with your doctor.
If you believe you or someone you know may have been the victim of a medication error, and if you believe the error resulted in serious injury or even death, you should contact an experienced North Carolina medical malpractice lawyer with the Lanier Law Group as soon as possible.