Preventable medication errors take the lives of an estimated 7,000 people every year. Approximately one and a half million more become ill or permanently injured. While it is the responsibility of healthcare providers to educate patients regarding drug interactions, side effects, and other issues involving medications, the current medical landscape may leave them little time and require too much multi-tasking to follow through properly. A study conducted by the Federal Drug Administration reported improper dosage and administration accounted for 41% of deadly errors. Patients over 60 years old were at the highest risk, due to the increased amount of different medications prescribed. To avoid suffering an injury due to medication error, the most effective steps you can take involve communication and education.
Communicating with Your Physician
Medical examinations can result in an overwhelming amount of information. Some patients engage in a discussion with their physician, only to find it becomes unclear and confusing after they leave the appointment. Demanding clear communication from your medical provider is vital to taking responsibility for your health and avoiding medication errors. The following is a drug-related checklist to review with your physician:
- Share all other prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, supplements, and herbs with your doctor.
- Always ask what the medication is and be sure to write it down. Clarify both the brand name and the generic name with your doctor.
- Be sure to understand the reason it is being prescribed, the correct dosage, and duration.
- Write down any potential side-effects.
- Before leaving the office, read any written prescriptions to be sure they match the information you wrote down.
Communicating with Your Pharmacist
Ensuring your physician and pharmacist have communicated properly is the next step in reducing your risk of medication mistakes. Similar names for unrelated medications can be confused. Pharmacists may misread a physician’s writing. Check the following with your pharmacist:
- Confirm the prescription you wrote down is the same prescription, dosage, and duration the pharmacist received.
- Confirm whether the prescription is to be taken as a pill, capsule, liquid, or other form of administration.
- Obtain a patient information and drug description printout. This should describe side effects, interactions, and other pertinent information.
- Be sure all your allergy and medication history is updated in the pharmacy computer system.
Alcohol and Medications
Combining alcohol with certain medications, herbal remedies, or over-the-counter drugs may cause catastrophic reactions, leading to brain damage or death. Again, speaking with your physician and pharmacist about potential hazards is in your best interest. Symptoms of a harmful interaction include:
- Dizziness, drowsiness, or fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
- Uncharacteristic headaches
- Blood pressure fluctuations
- Uncharacteristic behavior
- Unsteady coordination
Even if no immediate signs are visible, long term interaction may lead to the following:
- Heart problems
- Liver damage or failure
- Internal bleeding
- Respiratory impairment
Carey, Danis & Lowe – St. Louis Medical Malpractice Lawyers
If you have experienced an injury or medical condition due to a medication error, it may involve either medical malpractice or pharmaceutical liability. At Carey, Danis & Lowe, our legal team will be honored to review your circumstances and help you determine the best legal course of action. You may be overwhelmed by medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Our legal team is committed to providing aggressive representation, while ensuring your understanding of the legal system every step of the way. Contact Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free consultation about your case.