Medication errors have become such a growing concern in the United States that the National Center for Biotechnology Information lists them as a leading cause of injury and death. Billions of prescriptions are filled each year and even with a small margin of error, this can result in thousands of deaths and many more injuries. Some of the victims at the greatest risk are children, due largely to the fact that they are unaware of the exact way that medications work and the side effects that may result. It is the responsibility of doctors, pharmacists and parents to take every measure possible to prevent these errors.
What Makes Pharmacy Errors So Common?
The NCBI has reported a rise in the frequency of all medication and pharmacy errors in recent history and part of this can be attributed to the flood of new medications onto the market. Large pharmaceutical companies often rush their latest medicines to market without fully understanding how they may react with other medications, dietary habits and other factors. In other instances, these companies may know of the potential for complication but conceal this information from doctors and their patients. With the release of so many new medications and the need to fulfill billions of prescriptions every year, the pharmacy industry is often stressed and stretched thin.
A single pharmacist may be required to fill hundreds of prescriptions each day and the need to provide medications to so many patients in a timely manner can place pharmacists in a hurry. Being rushed increases the chances that pharmacists will provide patients with the wrong medication or dosage. Pharmacists are also the very last line of defense prior to the person administering a medication, which places even more stress and responsibility onto the shoulders of these individuals.
The Process of Filling a Prescription
While medication errors occurring in hospitals, ambulatory settings and nursing facilities are more publicized, they are actually much rarer than medication errors in outpatient settings. Medical facilities have trained staff members that can reduce the risk of errors by offering additional layers of defense. The process of filling a prescription can explain why prescription errors are so common and why so many children are impacted.
- The first step requires a diagnosis of the patient’s condition and subsequent treatment plan. A doctor will evaluate whether the medication he or she is prescribing offers enough of a benefit to justify the potential side effects and complications. He or she will then write the prescription, indicating which medication is to be administered, in what form and dose it is to be given and the frequency in which it should be taken.
- The prescription is filled by a pharmacist. If a parent is filling the prescription on behalf of a child, the parent is the only line of defense remaining before the child receives the medication. Most parents don’t have any training on how to detect whether the medication they are providing their children is correct and because a nurse or caregiver is not providing the medication, any errors will go undetected.
- In hospital settings, a nurse or caregiver may be able to catch a prescription error and prevent the incorrect administration of the drug. Nurses are trained to review each patient’s charts and are aware of any potential adverse reactions a patient may have if he or she is on other medications.
Why Children are at an Elevated Risk
The information gathered by the NCBI has indicated that most of the adverse reactions experienced due to medication errors are benign and only result in mild side effects or complications. Dosing errors in adults have a lower impact because the metabolisms of adults are different than that of children and they also have more body mass. Children taking the wrong medication or an overdose are likely to suffer more serious reactions than adults for this reason.
Children are also less likely to report the symptoms of an adverse reaction simply because they are unaware of the warning signs. Their symptoms often become more severe before they notify anyone and this allows the medications more time to do harm. While there are measures that parents may be able to take to ensure that their children are protected, their actions are often guided by the instructions given to them by their children’s doctors and pharmacists. When a pharmacist incorrectly dispenses medications, parents are often oblivious unless they have medical training or knowledge.
If your child was injured due to a medication error, it is important to determine where the error was made. You may be entitled to recover compensation from the party that is responsible in order to pay for medical treatment, rehabilitative therapy and the pain and suffering your child must endure. To learn more about your rights and legal options, contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC today. Our attorneys will answer any questions that you have about the legal process and what avenues are available to help you recover the damages you are entitled to.