Medication mistakes by doctors, pharmacists harm 1.5M annually

When people in Joliet get sick, they go to the doctor, who may prescribe something to help treat the problem or help us feel better. Many people have chronic health issues that require regular doctors’ visits and renewed prescriptions. But sometimes, negligent mistakes by the doctor or pharmacist can cause a patient to take the wrong medicine, possibly leading to serious complications, even death.

The problem is terrifying in scope. According to one news report, medication errors cause at least 200,000 deaths and more than 1.5 million health complications each year. The number of mixed-up prescriptions is estimated to be in the tens of millions but could be higher because many cases go unreported.

The mistakes can be made either by the doctor who enters the wrong drug or wrong dosage into an electronic prescription system or by the pharmacist who misreads the prescription or mixes up two drugs that look similar but have vastly different potentcies and contents. Patients may not catch the error in time and take the medicine, perhaps causing a severe reaction.

Using electronic systems like the one mentioned above has helped cut down on the medication errors in the U.S., but has only been partially successful. The systems use bar code scanners and computer databases to try to ensure that the drug being prescribed is the right kind for the patient and is the once actually being given to him or her.

But observers say that human error can still creep into the process. A doctor might pick the wrong drug on the computer or a pharmacist might misread the order and give the wrong dosage. Hopefully, the medical community in Illinois will continue to work on this serious problem to someday eliminate it.

Source: WTTG-TV, “FOX 5 Investigates: Medication mistakes that can kill,” Sherri Ly, July 11, 2013

Medication Errors


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