At-home medication errors have more than doubled since 2000

A rapid rise in at-home medication errors has led to calls for better prescription standards.

A little studied type of medication error - medication errors that occur outside of healthcare facilities - is rising rapidly. That's the conclusion of a recent study into at-home medication errors, which showed that they have more than doubled since 2000, according to NPR. Taking the incorrect dosage amount was the leading cause of at-home medication errors. The rapid growth of these medication errors has led to calls for the adoption of more stringent rules surrounding how prescriptions are filled and for how instructions for taking medications at home are given.

Rate of errors rises rapidly

The study looked at serious medication errors that were reported to poison control centers between 2000 and 2012. In total, the study found that during that 13-year period there were a total of over 67,000 at-home medication errors. More alarming was the fact that annual reported errors more than doubled from 3,065 in 2000 to 6,855 in 2012. The rate of such errors also doubled from 1 out of every 100,000 Americans to 2 out of every 100,000.

Cardiovascular drugs were by far the most frequently associated with at-home medication errors, accounting for 21 percent of those errors. They were followed by painkillers, at 12 percent, hormones/hormone antagonists, at 11 percent, and sedatives/hypnotics/antipsychotics, at 10 percent. It is important to point out that because the study looked at only medication errors that were actually reported to poison control centers, the true number of at-home medication errors (including unreported ones) is likely much higher.

Prescription errors

The leading cause of medication errors that occurred outside of healthcare facilities was taking or being given the incorrect dosage. An incorrect dosage amount can occur, for example, if the patient makes a mistake concerning the number of pills he or she should take, which can happen if instructions for taking those pills are confusing or unclear. Additionally, a pharmacist may make an error and give the patient medication at a higher concentration than what was prescribed.

At-home medication errors have, until now, not been studied in much detail. As the Washington Post reports, this recent study has led to many experts saying that more safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that at-home medication errors don't happen so frequently. Such safeguards could include, for example, ensuring that instructions for taking medications are clear and easy to understand, especially for people who may be illiterate or have difficulty understanding measurements.

Getting legal advice

Anybody who may have been injured by a healthcare professional or facility, such as by a medication error, should contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. In many such cases injured patients have a right to pursue financial compensation. However, these cases are complex and require the assistance of an attorney who is experienced in handling them. Such an attorney can assist clients in a variety of ways, such as by helping them understand what compensation they may be able to pursue and how to build an effective case.