To err is human

Many patients die from mishandling of drugs from health care professionals. The frequency of misadministration and injury from it are a serious threat to a patient. As much as 7000 people die from “prescription error” alone in United States.  The medical threats due to overdose or under dose can’t be undermined. So here is the list of some common drugs involved in medical errors.

  • Insulin
    Although this is a commonly used drug for helping diabetic patients, it is the most error-prone medication. It has been found that most of medical errors are due to wrong administration of this drug. Medical error happens mostly due to look-alike products with similar packaging, similarity in names like Humalog and Humulin. And most commonly due to confusion in “u” for number.
  • Morphine
    This drug made second in the list because it is also a well known drug that is most usually misadministered. This is usually due to similarity in names and packaging. Some of these examples are Morphine and Hydromorphono, Hydrocodone and Oxycodone,and Oxycontin and MS Contin. These drugs are usually stacked close and can have similar packaging, which will increase the chance of grabbing the wrong one. Oral administration of morphine can also cause a lot of problem. pharmacist can easily confuse ‘mL’ for ‘mg’. Using 10mL of morphine instead of 10mg would lead to an overdose.
  • Acetaminophen
    Acetaminophen can be toxic. They are sold OTC without prescription and are likely to cause medical error. It is available in different strengths and measured in different units by different devices. Prescription labels of acetaminophen can also make things confusing to the patients. Hydrocodone 10/650contains 650mg of acetaminophen, but many people simply wouldn’t know that. Acetaminophen overdose can cause liver failure and death.
  • Antibiotics
    These are the next group of drugs that are prone to misadministration. Their liquid form increases the chance of mistakes. Pharmacists can confuse ‘mL’ over ‘tsp’ (tea spoon full) and can overdose the patients. Reconstituting antibiotics can also invite new errors as pharmacists have been found to add alcohol instead of water by mistake.
  • There are many other less dangerous drugs like aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, amoxicillin, etc that can be misadministered by pharmacist. They can cause side effects but are equally susceptible and capable in disrupting a patients activities and daily life. Amoxicillin overdose can cause behavior changes, skin rash, less urination and seizures. Even something as common as aspirin can cause epigastric distress and other cardiovascular symptoms. An Ibuprofen can damage the intestines. Most of these drugs can be purchased by the patient without any prescription easily.

While medical errors can never be under our control and can happen no matter how careful pharmacists are, communication is the vital key and can significantly reduce the risks. Asking the age of the patient, weight, height and medical condition can reduce these inadvertently induced errors and can play a vital role in helping the patients.