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Understanding medication errors

Mistakes can occur during the prescribing, dispensing or administering of medication. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, medication errors are the third leading cause of death in America. This means it is an issue that deserves immediate attention.

How can you safeguard yourself and your loved ones from drug errors? Why do they happen? Here is some helpful information that will help you understand medication mistakes and how to prevent them.

Common medication errors

A lot of things can go wrong with prescription drugs, but here are some of the most prevalent errors:

  • Giving a patient the incorrect type of drug
  • Giving a patient the incorrect dosage of a drug
  • Prescribing a patient a drug with adverse interactions with other drugs the patient is taking
  • Failing to inform a patient about potential side effects of a drug

Mistakes like this can cause anything from inconvenient side effects to death.

Causes of medication errors

Common reasons that medication errors occur include:

  • Miscommunication between health care providers
  • Miscommunication between patients and their health care providers
  • Medical abbreviations
  • Medications with similar appearances or names

These mistakes can occur anywhere, including the hospital, pharmacy or doctor office.

How to avoid medication errors

The best way to stop yourself from becoming a victim of drug errors is by asking questions of your health care provider. Good questions to ask include:

  • What is the generic or brand name of the drug?
  • What dose should I take?
  • How long should I take this drug?
  • Are there other medications, foods or activities I should avoid?
  • What are the common side effects?

Asking your pharmacist or doctor these questions will reduce the likelihood of getting hurt because of a medication error.

Legal action for medication errors

If your health care provider is negligent and commits a medication error that hurts you or someone you love, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

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