The Law Offices of Sanford F. Young, P.C.

Getting results since 1978

What are common medication errors?

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

With over 6,000 prescription drugs available to consumers, a patient might expect an occasional error. However, a doctor in New York could commit medical malpractice if they don’t follow certain protocols. Medical malpractice means a doctor neglected to follow a standard of care, causing patient harm.

Overview of medication errors

No standard definition of medication error exists, but a generally accepted meaning is a preventable event that caused an adverse drug event. This occurs when the medication causes the patient harm from normal use.

Statistics show that medication errors cause about 251,000 deaths annually and rank as the third top cause of death in the United States. Older people are the most susceptible group, accounting for 15% of medication errors because they often take more medicine.

Types of medication errors

Many medication errors occur at the prescribing stage, especially in ER settings where the staff often doesn’t know the history of a patient. The staff could be unaware of the potential risks of mixing drugs or a patient’s allergies. Sometimes, a doctor’s illegible handwriting causes a prescription to get misread or confused with another medication from the misspelling.

Another common error involves the repackaging of medication from larger bottles to smaller bottles. The medicine may have incorrect labels, or the staff might place the wrong medication in the bottle.

Other errors occur at the administration stage caused by the doctor or patient, accounting for 25% of medication errors. Administration covers how the drug is given, how much and whether it’s given to the right patient.

An adverse reaction to a prescribed medicine doesn’t mean medical malpractice. Patients may have a medical malpractice case if they can prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed and the doctor breached their duty of care. Each state also has a statute of limitations that gives patients a time limit to file claims.