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How can prescription errors threaten lives?

When you take your prescription to the local pharmacy or are given a drug while in the hospital, you expect to be given the correct medication that was accurately prescribed by your physician. Unfortunately, just like any other area of medical practice, errors can occur. Not only can community pharmacies be at fault for filling a prescription incorrectly or dispensing the wrong medication, a physician or medical institution may be responsible for prescribing a medication incorrectly. Nurses may also phone in the prescription wrong, which could have catastrophic results in some cases. A mistake can occur anywhere during the prescribing process.

According to the National Library of Medicine, some medication errors may include the following:

  •          Physicians prescribe a drug in error due to lack of clinical knowledge regarding a condition or disease.
  •          Physicians prescribe the wrong dose of medication based upon the patients’ body weight and age.
  •          Pharmacy personnel mistype the prescription or interpret the doctor’s handwriting incorrectly, resulting in dispensing the wrong medication.
  •          Medication may be given to the wrong patient or prescribed for the wrong route of administration.

For example, if a doctor prescribes .15 milliliters of a medication to be given to a baby and the technician typing the prescription does not notice the decimal point, he or she could inadvertently type for 15 milliliters of the medication to be given, which could be a lethal dose depending on the drug. The doctor may avoid this mistake by writing it for 0.15 milliliters or typing the prescription rather than handwriting it.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice. 

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