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The dangers of medication errors and how to prevent them

Errors regarding medication are common, and they are also preventable. Medication errors can occur in many ways, and they result in adverse reactions and even death.

There are various ways to prevent an error from occurring, and they can happen at different stages of the prescribing and dispensing processes.

Dangers of, and the types of, medication errors

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the cost associated with patient care due to medication errors is more than $40 billion every year. These costs accumulate due to the hundreds of thousands of complications and adverse reactions and the almost 9,000 deaths that occur annually. Physical and psychological pain can both occur due to these errors.

Medication errors can occur at any time, but they are most common during the prescribing, documenting, transcribing, dispensing, administering and monitoring steps. 50% of the errors occur during the prescribing stage, such as when the healthcare provider prescribes the wrong medication, writes the incorrect frequency or writes the wrong dose.

Prevention tactics

Distraction is the cause for around 75% of medication errors. One way to prevent this is for doctors to set aside a specific time to write progress notes and prescriptions, and they should request that no one bother them during this time.

The Food and Drug Administration discusses that even before the approval of a drug for marketing, it reviews the drug’s name and label to ensure it uses colors or other easy identifiers to differentiate among different product names and strength levels. The label should also be easy to read and understand. Barcodes can also decrease the number of errors.

Patients, themselves, play a role in minimizing medication errors. They should understand what the drug is for and exactly when and how to take it. They should tell all their healthcare providers about other medication and supplements they are taking. They should also check the label before taking any medication and ask about any interactions with food or other drugs.