Gorovitz & Borten, P.C.
Attorneys at Law

550 Cochituate Road, SUite 25
Framingham, Massachusetts
Tel: (781) 890-9095
Medication Errors
A medication error, as defined by the National Coordinating Council for Medication
Error Reporting and Prevention (NCCMERP), is any preventable event that may
cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication
is in control of the health care professional, patient or consumer. Medication errors
are frequent and have the potential to do great harm to patients. They can occur in
and out of the hospital.

The Institute of Medicine reported in 1999 that 44,000 to 98,000 people die in US
hospitals as a result of medical errors. Medication errors are the largest component
of medical errors. Medication errors are estimated to account for at least 7,000
annual deaths. Medication errors are preventable events and are distinct and
separate from adverse drug reactions which may be unavoidable. Most medication
errors are not detected and from those that are detected only a few are reported.
Type of medication errors include:

  • Improper dose (overdose, underdose, extra dose)
  • Wrong drug
  • Wrong route of administration
  • Wrong patient
  • Wrong rate
  • Wrong strength or concentration
  • Monitoring error
  • Wrong duration

Medication errors can occur at all stages of the medication process including
prescribing, preparing, dispensing, administering and monitoring.  Physicians,
nurses, pharmacists and hospital all have a responsibility to prevent medication
errors. Most common causes of medication errors are human factors followed by
communication problems, handwriting errors, transcription errors and interpretation
errors. The greater number of medications prescribed to a patient, the greater the
risk of medication errors.

A careful investigation usually can determine where the medication error occurred
and who was responsible for it. Causes of medication errors include:

  • Communication (oral or written miscommunication)
  • Name confusion (proprietary names that sound or look alike)
  • Labeling (similar or misleading container labels)
  • Human factors (performance or knowledge deficits)
  • Packaging or design (inappropriate package or device design)
  • Dosage error (wrongly prescribed or wrongly transcribed)

Medication errors that result in an adverse drug event (ADE) occur most often
during the ordering stage of the medication process. Most of these adverse drug
event (ADE) errors are preventable.  Many pharmacies have installed medical logic
alerts to detect unsafe medication orders.

Unfortunately, many computer systems miss unsafe orders and alerts are often
overridden because they occur frequently with questionable or unclear significance.
Some studies have shown that up to 80% of drug-allergy alerts were overrode of
which 6% led to adverse drug event (ADE).

Harmful medication errors are over three times more likely to occur in the
perioperative period than at other stages of the process. Children and elderly
patients are particularly at a greater risk for such errors. Most medication errors
during the perioperative period occur in the:

  • Operating room (OR)
  • Postanesthesia care unit (PACU)
  • Postoperative surgical floor

If you or your loved one have been injured as a result of a medication error
Borten and the Boston area medical malpractice attorneys at Gorovitz & Borten can
help you assert your rights and get the compensation you deserve.
Contact Information
For a free confidential consultation and receive a response within 24 hours (when
possible), please contact us by phone, fax or e-mail with your question or concern.

Telephone:  781-890-9095     -     Fax:   781-890-9098
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