Legal Guide

Common Types of Prescription Errors

The safe use of prescription medication involves many factors that medical professionals must consider. The many concerns that inform the selection and administration of prescription medication naturally lead to the possibility for medication errors to occur in many different ways.

While some medication errors bring benign consequences, others can gravely impact a patient’s health. In severe cases, a prescription medication error can lead to death. Below are some of the most common prescription medication errors made by healthcare providers.

Incorrect Prescription Medication

One of the most common prescription errors occurs when the wrong medication is used.

This type of error can happen in many ways. A provider might accidentally prescribe the wrong medication. Alternatively, the provider may write the prescription correctly, but a healthcare worker may accidentally administer an incorrect medication or an incorrect dose.

Errors with the type of medication used can also occur at the pharmacy level, where a pharmacist may fill a prescription incorrectly.

When prescriptions are handwritten, illegible handwriting can lead to confusion over what is written on the prescription pad. Similarly, a prescription called in over the phone can be mistaken for one with a similar-sounding name.

Incorrect Prescription Dosage

Dosage is a consideration nearly as important as the medication itself. A correct medication administered at the wrong dosage can have serious consequences. Dosage errors can occur in a medical setting when medication is incorrectly ordered or administered.

Incorrect dosage can also occur in errors or oversight during the creation of a prescription. A patient may be directed to take higher or more frequent doses than is safe. Alternatively, dosage may lead to a patient not receiving a sufficient amount of medication for it to be effective.

Incomplete Prescription Instructions

Many medications come with side effects that must be considered for safety. When a medication prescription does not provide complete instructions and warnings to a patient, there’s a risk of many different consequences. Common instructions that must be included for patient safety include:

  • Warnings to not drive or operate heavy machinery
  • Warnings to not consume alcohol
  • Warnings of interactions with other medications
  • Warnings of reactions and signs to cease use
  • Warnings to not use when pregnant
  • Warnings to not use with certain health conditions
  • A specified maximum daily dose
  • Instructions to take with food
  • Directions to limit sun exposure

When prescription instructions fail to adequately inform and warn a patient of considerations like these, they risk a wide range of complications. For patients with serious medication conditions or a complex prescription regime, a small oversight in instructions can lead to significant consequences.

Failure to Consider Patient Background

Many prescription drug errors occur due to a provider’s failure to adequately inquire into the patient’s background. Even when all other aspects of a prescription are handled correctly, the central concern is how a medication will interact with a specific patient.

When prescribing medications, providers must take care to consider patient factors, including:

  • Other medications currently prescribed
  • Other health conditions
  • Allergies
  • Past drug reactions

Factors like these have an immediate bearing on all aspects of how a medication should be prescribed, including type, dosage, and route of administration.

Small Prescription Errors Lead to Large Consequences

A prescription error can happen in countless ways. Although some prescription errors occur through a significant lapse in medical attention, these errors usually occur through oversight of a small detail. However, there’s no such thing as a small error when it comes to prescription medications.

Even a minor mistake can have far-reaching consequences for a patient. Prescription drug error attorneys routinely see firsthand the long-term consequences that can come out of a momentary prescription error.

Prescription errors can cause health issues, delay healing or relief, or leave a patient lacking adequate care. They can also bring anaphylactic reactions, serious medical complications, and death.

Medical providers must be held to a high standard when prescribing and administering prescription medications to patients who trust a provider's medical expertise.

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