100,000 Americans die of pharmaceutical errors annually

Most adverse side effects to a prescription drug often occur because a drug manufacturer, doctor or pharmacist failed to disclose any known harm the medication could do to patients by taking it.

What we hear less about on the news, though, are the potentially fatal risks associated with a pharmacist dispensing the wrong drug to a patient. A recent report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that as many as 100,000 patients lose their lives annually because of this type of pharmaceutical error. There appear to be many reasons these types of errors occur.

In one case, both the pharmacy's and manufacturer's labels may have been different causing one drug to be dispensed when another one should have instead. There have also been cases in which medications have either been similarly spelled and also had a similar appearance, thus resulting in a switch up. In the case of the latter, it's only after patients' health has declined or that they've died that they've become aware of the error.

A review of 200 pharmacist error cases in one state after 2016 turned up a number of alarming cases. In one instance, a 7-year-old was admitted to the emergency room complaining of heart problems after being given too strong of a dose of a prescription drug. In another instance, a 3-month-old had to spend nearly a week in the intensive care unit after a pharmacist dispensed a dose nearly 100 times what was prescribed by his doctor.

Researchers working on this latest study ultimately concluded that most pharmaceutical errors are likely caused by pharmacists being overworked.

They note that there may be as many as 5,000 drugs on their shelves. He also said that of the 300 prescriptions an average pharmacist may dispense daily, as many as four of them may be dispensed incorrectly. Anti-coagulants and insulin are cited as being the drugs that are most often dispensed incorrectly.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has apparently tried to curb pharmaceutical errors in recent years by making modifications to prescription drug names so that they aren't spelled similarly. They've worked to encourage doctors to type prescriptions and to use barcode technology as well.

If your loved one's health has declined after having taken the wrong medication or too high of a dose of the wrong one, then a Nashville dangerous or defective drugs attorney can advise you of your rights in your case.

Source: CBS 13 Sacramento, "Prescription drug dispensing errors kill 100,000 people per year in US," May 15, 2018

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