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The Hazard of Prescription Drug Mistakes

In 2007, actor Dennis Quaid and his wife became the proud parents of twins. Their joy quickly turned to fear when treatment for an infection resulted in the twins receiving a massive overdose of a blood thinner. The twins recovered, but Quaid went on to sue the drug maker due to his belief that incorrect labeling led to his children’s and other patients’ dangerous overdosing. Sadly, the case of the Quaid family is far from an isolated incident. Injuries and death from incorrectly administered medications occurs far more often that people may be aware.

Incorrect dosing, as well as receiving the wring medication, are common safety problems with prescriptions. As in the Quaid family, mistakes can lead to patients receiving too much or too little of a medication. Sometimes the error can be caused by something as mundane as a provider misreading handwritten instructions, to something as negligent as inattention or carelessness. For example, failure to make notes on a patient’s chart that they have already received a dose of medication can lead to the patient receiving multiple doses. Also, most medications require dosing based upon age and weight. When a medical professional fails to take these into account, including weighing a patient at the start of each and every visit, it’s much easier for dangerously incorrect dosing to occur.

Drug mix-ups also account for a large percentage of medical mistakes. For instance, today there are so many similarly-named drugs on the market that the United States Pharmacopeia issued a publication detailing those easily confused medications a prescriber should be cautious when prescribing. Another concern is the similar appearance of many pills and liquid medication. Though the prescriber may have sent in a script for the correct prescription, for instance, a pharmacist can and has misidentified a medication based on appearance.

Problems also arise when a medical provider fails to adequately read a patient’s chart. When a patient first sees a doctor or is admitted to a hospital, all allergies and current medications should be noted. However, when medical providers fail to make appropriate notations or fail to thoroughly study a patients’ chart before prescribing them with a new medication, something as preventable as an allergic patient being given a dangerous dose of penicillin can occur. Also, a doctor who is unaware of all the medicines a patient is on risks prescribing that patient with an unsafe mix of medications.

There are a few ways patients can protect their safety. First, it is very important that a patient be their own advocate, or assigns a trusted person to act in their place. Always ask for a clear explanation of all types of prescriptions or injections before taking them. Make clear that you discuss directly with each person providing your care any allergies or reactions you’ve had in the past. Also be aware that you have a right to see your medical records. It might be in your best interest to double-check that all your records clearly state your allergies and other medical conditions. When being given medication, patients should always examine the drug before taking it. If you’ve taken it before, make sure the size, shape, color and/or inscriptions match previous pills or liquids you’ve taken. If it is a new medication, there are multiple resources online that can provide you with photos and a written description of your medication. If you believe you have been the victim of medical error, contact a Chicago personal injury lawyer who can advise you how to proceed.

About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyer that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.

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