People know that medication errors are a serious health concern, but they may misunderstand where much of this risk actually originates. While it is true that people can make mistakes while taking prescription medications, some of the most unexpected and devastating medication errors are the fault of licensed medical professionals.
Whether someone requires inpatient care at a hospital where nurses administer their medications or they need to pick up a prescription from a pharmacy, a patient in need of prescribed drugs trusts that the professionals dispensing or administering them will do so competently. Unfortunately, mistakes with medications are actually incredibly common, and many of those mistakes are the fault of the healthcare provider who dispenses the drug at the pharmacy or personally administers it to a patient. Mix-ups and mistakes during the dispensation and administration of prescription drugs can lead to severe medical consequences for the patient involved in the following all-too-common ways.
Two or more medications can interact with each other and cause issues for a patient. Some medications have a synergistic effect with other drugs. Taking the medications at the same time will amplify the effect of both drugs, which could have dangerous consequences for the patient involved. Other times, drug interactions might lead to completely different bodily reactions or to one drug becoming less effective. The interaction of two or more medications is preventable in many cases so long as doctors know what medicines someone will take.
Administering the wrong dose of a drug or making a significant timing error regarding when a patient receives a drug can be deadly or can lead to organ damage. Drug errors, including mistakes when administering intravenous (IV) medications, can lead to a patient receiving too much of a particular drug, which can be very dangerous for their bodies.
Reduced treatment efficacy
Sometimes the issue with a medication error isn’t that someone receives the wrong drug or too much medication but rather that they don’t receive the medication they actually need. Interruption of the administration of certain drugs, like antibiotics, can significantly reduce how effective those drugs are at treating a patient’s underlying medical condition.
A patient who suffers negative consequences because of a medication administration error may be in a position to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. Holding pharmacists or hospital workers accountable for drug errors can reduce the burden on a patient harmed by the professional failure of others.