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Errors with high-risk medications all too common

Preventable medication errors affect some 7 million people in Michigan and across the U.S. every year. Worldwide, between 2% and 5% of all hospital admissions are due to medication errors, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and most of these are also preventable. In 7% of these cases of hospital admission, the patient suffers serious medication-related harm.

A number of things can contribute to a patient’s risk for a medication error. Age is one thing with elderly patients running a higher risk. Those with a chronic disease or a multiplicity of them (a comorbidity), those who have suffered renal failure, those who take multiple medications and those who are given high-risk medications are all especially vulnerable, too.

High-risk medications can range from anticoagulants like heparin to electrolytes like potassium. They also include antineoplastics, used to treat cancer; anticholinergics, used to treat Parkinson’s disease and bladder conditions; opioids; and antimicrobials. Their level of risk may differ based on the work environment, but hospitals and medical centers should still try to limit access to them.

Numerous strategies can help curb the risk for error regardless of whether the medication is high-risk or not. Some steps would be to designate a medication safety leader, standardize the drug concentrations and create a plan addressing drug shortages.

Hospitals and medical centers are expected to implement many such strategies; otherwise, they may be accused of negligence. Those who receive the wrong drug or the wrong dosage may suffer physically and emotionally and undergo various treatments, none of which they should have to pay for. This is where medical malpractice law comes in. Victims may seek compensation from the hospital, holding it vicariously liable for the error committed by the doctor it employed, but they may want to have legal representation throughout the process.

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