Drug Errors Injure 1.5 Million Americans Yearly




Drug Errors Injure 1.5 Million Americans Yearly

Nearly 1.5 million people in the United States are seriously harmed or killed every year as a result of medication errors, one of the most common forms of medical malpractice, according to a new report released Thursday by the Institute of Medicine.

The report stated that an average of one drug error per day is caused by mix-ups in drug names, wrong dosages, failure to administer drugs, and a number of other mistakes.

The new findings follow a 1999 report from the Institute, which outlined all medical mistakes—as many as 98,000 Americans are killed every year due to medical errors, 7,000 of which are the result of drug errors.

“We were initially quite surprised by the number of mistakes, but the more we heard, the more convinced we were that these are actually serious underestimates,” said Dr. Kevin Johnson, a panel member.

The new report recommends new research and procedures to reduce the risk of future drug errors and emphasizes the use of computers for prescribing and delivering medications and information acquisition.

Preventable Mistakes
According to the study, medication errors happen way too frequently and an estimated 400,000 drug-related injuries that occur in hospitals are preventable. Furthermore, there are about 800,000 drug-related injuries and deaths in nursing homes and similar care facilities, and almost 530,000 errors among Medicare patients in outpatient clinics.

“The current process by which medications are prescribed, dispensed, administered, and monitored is characterized by many serious problems that threaten both the safety and positive outcomes of patients,” said J. Lyle Bootman of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and co-chairman of the panel.

Drugs Linked to Patient Injury or Death
The medications most commonly linked with hospital errors are morphine, insulin, chloride, potassium, and the anticoagulants warfarin and heparin, which pose a high risk of injury if administered incorrectly.

A 2002 study conducted by the United States Pharmacopeia found that these five medications were the cause of 28 percent of all drug-related errors that resulted in a lengthened hospitalization for patients.

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