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What are the causes of medication errors and can they be reduced?

When residents in Pennsylvania become ill, they rely on medical professionals to diagnose and treat them. In most cases, this often requires prescribing the patient medication. And, while these medications can be effective when used properly, patients could be harmed due to negligence and errors occurring in the prescribing, distribution and administering medications.

What are the causes of medication errors, and can they be reduced? When patients pick up the medications they have been prescribed, they assume that the medicine that they are receiving from the pharmacist is both safe and efficacious. Nonetheless, the FDA claims that roughly 1.3 million patients are harmed by medication errors every year and at least one person dies every day due to medication errors in the United States.

There are various reasons why medication errors occur, but this post will focus on the three major factors and whether these can be remedied. The first factor is inadequate work environment. According to recent reports, almost half of all pharmacists reported that they had so much work to get done that they were not able to get everything done well. A fast-paced and high-stress work environment is breeding grounds for medication errors.

The second factor is dispensing time limits. Based on a recent survey, 83 percent of pharmacists claimed that performance metrics contributed to dispensing errors. On average, a pharmacy dispenses around 250 or more prescriptions per day, which means roughly 32 prescriptions per 8-hour shift are filled. But, this does not account for other actions, such as looking up drug allergies, interactions and contraindications, answering phone calls, talking to insurance companies, prescribers and patients.

The last factor is the lack of consultations. A recent survey found that roughly 85 percent of pharmacists had a workload too high, causing a barrier to provide adequate consultations. Although, prescription errors could be found and corrected 89 percent of the time during a consultation, time often inhibits consistent consultations from occurring.

The key ways to address these medication errors are by having adequate staffing, up-to-date technology and programs that allow pharmacists to find any potential medication-related problems. While these steps could reduce or prevent medication errors from occurring, when negligence is the cause of a medication error, a harmed patient has recourses available to them. A medical malpracticee lawsuit could provide the patient with compensation for their injuries, losses and damages.

Source:, "Keys to Minimizing Prescription Drug Errors," Cindy Nguyen, Oct. 10, 2016

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