More Patients Experiencing Harm From Rx Drug Errors
Instances in which patients are injured after receiving the wrong medication or dosage from a hospital have doubled in the last 10 years, and at least 1.5 million U.S. residents are involved in such incidents each year, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Reports to FDA on serious injuries resulting from hospital drug errors have increased from about 35,000 in 1998 to about 90,000 in 2005, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Deaths from medication errors tripled during that time period, with 5,000 in 1998 and 15,000 in 2005.
The errors can occur when pharmacists stock drugs improperly, nurses neglect to double-check treatments or physicians write the medication order illegibly. One solution is to use a system in which the drugs are labeled with a bar code that is swiped and run through a computer system that checks the dosage and medication.
FDA requires drug manufacturers to place bar codes on the packaging of medications, and most do so, according to Allen Vaida, executive vice president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Hospital administrators and other health care officials have been discussing the issue of drug errors and solutions to the problem for the last few years.
Albert Wu, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University, said, "Errors are disturbingly common," adding, "The health care system has to take a step back and invest more in research and improving patient safety. Until it does, these kinds of incidents will keep happening" (Lin/Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 11/22).