The Wrong Combination of Medications Can Be Deadly

by | Feb 11, 2014 | Firm News, Medication Errors |

Pharmacists and doctors are responsible to understand how prescription drugs interact with each other and can cause medication errors. When prescribing drugs, family physicians should take into account their patients’ medical history. A failure to do this could result in serious medical implications when prescribing drugs that dangerously interact with other medications.

Did Your Physician Fail To Discuss How Certain Medications React Together?

Many people take multiple prescriptions on a daily basis. Family doctors are responsible to review their patients’ medical history and understand the extent of prescription drugs they are taking. They also need to talk with their patients so they are aware of any over-the-counter prescriptions being taken and the amount of alcohol being consumed.

Unfortunately, family clinics are overworked and understaffed. Doctors often have little time to meet with their patients and may fail in asking the right questions to avoid medication errors. Our law firm is committing to holding medical professionals accountable for failing to take into account their patients’ medical history and the mix of prescription or over-the counter drugs being used. This can lead to a medical condition called polypharmacy when patients take more medications than necessary.

Studies Indicate Electronic Prescriptions Leave Less Room For Error

As cell phones and computers have become ubiquitous, essential parts of our everyday lives, texting and email have become our preferred modes of communication. And while very few people take the time to write a letter or note by hand, there is one area where handwriting persists: prescriptions. Unfortunately, studies indicate that handwritten prescriptions contribute to medication errors, which in many cases cause serious injury.

One 2010 study compared the incidence of medication errors when doctors used handwritten prescriptions versus the incidence of errors when they used electronic prescriptions. The researchers discovered 37 errors for every 100 handwritten prescriptions, as compared to only 7 errors for every 100 electronic prescriptions. Notably, the study did not track legibility problems where a pharmacist was unable to read a prescription and called the physician to clarify. If it had, the incidence of errors in handwritten prescriptions may well have been much higher.

Medication errors can cause serious injuries. If a patient takes the incorrect medication, he faces the possibility of an adverse reaction or a dangerous interaction with his other medications.

Medication Errors And Negligence Don’t Always End Careers

For the people in Akron who think medical malpractice, while tragic, will end a doctor’s career, it may be surprising to learn just how many doctors who have been stripped of their hospital privileges still retain their medical licenses. To take away a doctor’s ability to practice medicine is a serious consequence and one that should be applied for serious cases of negligence and malpractice, but even a streak of fatal medication errors has not cost one doctor his license.

Although this story of a doctor who still has his medical license, even after a series of serious and fatal medication errors, is not from Ohio, the story itself is not that unique. In fact, there are reports that show that thousands of doctors all over the country who have lost their hospital privileges and have been banned from medical facilities still keep their medical licenses.

Many of these doctors even escape without restrictions or suspension on their licenses. Even if they have paid considerable fees in medical malpractice settlements, their state boards still cannot or will not take their licenses.

And it is not just doctors who have had relatively minor slip-ups who are getting to keep their licenses. Research shows that almost 250 doctors across the country who were determined to be an “immediate threat to health and safety,” can continue practicing medicine and interacting with patients.

Though the doctor whose medication errors killed two women never lost his license, he at least was banned from ever dealing with patients again. Unfortunately, not every doctor is so restricted.

Band Handwriting Is No Excuse For Medication Errors

or years there have been jokes about doctors and their handwriting. Anyone going to medical school was told that they would need to learn how to sign their name like chicken scratch, yet the cost of that poor handwriting is shockingly serious. There are numerous people in Toledo and across the country who are given the wrong medication because a pharmacist can’t read the prescription. In fact, there are approximately 7,000 people who die each year because of some kind of medication error.

That figure doesn’t even take into account the number of people who are adversely affected but who do not die from medication errors.

There is an easy fix: electronic prescriptions. The technology is there; it is not even that doctors and hospitals are waiting anxiously for someone to develop it. Yet, only a small proportion of doctors will actually switch to electronic prescriptions. Why are they so reluctant to switch? Because electronic prescriptions have a higher cost than paper pads.

Of course, no one can force doctors or hospitals to shell out more to keep their patients safe, but it is unfathomable that medical professionals are willing to put their patients’ lives at risk to save a few dollars. What is worse, is that even if they didn’t want to switch to electronic prescriptions, it is largely in their hands to reduce medication errors, at least if they were to write more clearly.

Unfortunately, too many doctors in Ohio and throughout the United States are willing to compromise their patients’ safety if it will save them some money.

Patient Involvement Can Help Prevent Medication Errors. 

Many Ohio residents take prescription medications for chronic medical conditions or for pain management after a serious injury or surgery. Medication is not something that should be taken lightly. An overdose can cause serious side effects and even death. In fact, it is estimated that at least one person dies daily from medication errors.

It is up to doctors to create accurate lists of all the medications their patients are taking. However, this can be a daunting task considering that many patients are not fully aware of what medications they are taking, the proper dosage and even how often they should be taking them. Plus, the average American fills 12 prescriptions annually, amounting to four billion a year.

That’s where patient involvement comes in. Every patient should be knowledgeable of what medications he or she is taking. This is so doctors can prevent adverse events caused by combining medications.

When patients are discharged from a hospital, they should receive written instructions about their medications and be sure that they understand them before going home. They should then create a master list that contains all of their current medications, as well as dosage and time taken. This list should include not only prescription medications, but herbs, vitamins, patches, eye drops, ointments and creams.

With improper medication usage causing 1.5 million adverse events per year, it’s important for patients to stay educated. Even with electronic records in place, doctors can only do so much to keep patients safe. They can’t monitor what a patient does in his or her home, so awareness is important in order to prevent a dangerous combination of prescriptions.

Pay Attention To Your Prescriptions And Read The Labels

Researchers are calling for changes to prescription drug labels after publication of a study indicating that patients do not pay nearly enough attention to critical warning labels and instructions, which can be a key cause of medication errors.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Kansas State University and Michigan State University, consumers – particularly the elderly – do not pay attention to prescription warning labels and instructions because they are not attention catching. The study found that approximately 50 percent of people over 50 years of age did not notice a prescription warning and 22 percent of them did not read the warning label at all. In comparison, approximately 90 percent of those between the ages of 20 and 29 took time to read the labels of their prescription medication.

Nursing Home Are A Common Setting For Medication Errors

Putting a loved one in a nursing home in Ohio is a difficult decision to make. When you do, you expect the care he or she is receiving to be the best. In cases involving nursing home medication errors, a simple error could cost your loved one his or her life or leave this person in pain.

A March 11, 2014 report makes it clear just how many medical errors take place. According to a study by Medicare’s inspector general, close to 22,000 patients were hurt and over 1,500 patients died in just one month in an investigation of skilled nursing facilities. What was the cause? One-in-three patients was injured or killed due to infections, harm related to treatment, or medication errors.

An Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help You

No amount of compensation can reverse the damage that has been done. But, a skilled attorney can help you to obtain a full financial recovery for any current and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses incurred from the malpractice.


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