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5 types of medication errors that can harm patients

Taking medication when we are sick or in pain can help us feel better and recover more quickly. However, if there are mistakes in the prescription, administration or use of the medication, a person could develop more or worsening symptoms. 

Awareness of some of the more common medication errors can help patients protect themselves and make informed decisions.

The wrong medication

We often trust doctors, pharmacists and hospital workers to give people the right medication. However, this does not always happen.

Problems can arise when patients receive the wrong medicine because of an incorrect diagnosis or miscommunication. Illegible doctor’s notes or misread names of similar drugs can also result in the wrong medication.

Harmful interactions

When doctors prescribe a medication, they should do so with the patient’s medical history in mind. However, some doctors prescribe a drug without fully understanding it or without discussing a patient’s condition.

When they do this, medication can interact poorly or dangerously with other medicines or certain foods and beverages. Medical workers should be educated on possible drug interactions before giving it to patients.

Improper labelling

Medication manufacturers, hospitals and pharmacies must label medication clearly and properly. However, if there are labelling issues involving the name, dosage or expiration date, the drug could be unsafe for patients. 

Medication errors can also stem from missing or incorrect identifiers, like a patient’s name.

Incorrect directions

Hospital workers should know how to administer medication properly, and patients should know how to take medication safely when they go home. However, these directions can be incorrect if there are illegible notes, typos or improper abbreviations.

Something as small as a missing or misread letter could cause errors in the type, dosage, administration or frequency of a person’s medication.

Dosing miscalculations

Patients who take too much or too little medication can suffer ill effects. They must also take it at specific times to ensure it is safe and effective. If someone makes a mistake in their calculations, the doses could be off, creating problems for patients.

These mistakes are generally preventable, but they can still happen. When they do, the person who makes them can be held accountable for damages to a patient.