More people die each year as a result of prescription errors and administration of incorrect medication than road accidents, workplace incidents or AIDS, says The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCC MERP). This organization is an amalgamation of various national medical organizations with a common aim of improving standards in prescribing medication to avoid injury and death caused by mistakes.
NCC MERP has made a number of recommendations since 1996, targeted towards achieving its objective that no patient will be harmed by a medication error. The organizations that make up NCC MERP believe that the best way to reduce the number of mistakes is by working together to report and highlight mistakes so that awareness can be improved and that future mistakes can be avoided.
How to spot a prescription mistake
Even trained medical professionals can find it hard to spot errors in prescriptions, so it is often extremely difficult for the untrained person to spot them. However, there are some steps you can take to catch mistakes and avoid taking incorrect medication.
- Has the name of your drug changed? – Often, generic names are used instead of brand names. This can cause confusion, especially where the names of some drugs sound similar.
- Does it come in the same bottle as usual? – Although manufacturers change the design of containers from time to time, double-check if your medication arrives in a bottle that appears different to what you have previously seen.
- Does it look the same? – Non-essential ingredients may change so that the appearance of your medicine may be different. A radical difference in color, odor or taste should alert you to check that you have the correct drug.
- Did the pharmacist get “sign- off”? Most pharmacies have a procedure whereby another professional checks that their colleague has dispensed the right medicine. If you didn’t see this happen, ask the chemist whether checking is required.
Spotting mistakes in your own home or at the pharmacy may be somewhat easier when you have time and no pressure to make the appropriate checks than if you are administered a drug in a hospital or clinic. Even in these circumstances, take a moment to check what you are being given.
Where the wrong drug has been dispensed or administered by mistake, obtaining prompt medical treatment to deal with any adverse consequences is your top priority. Obtaining appropriate compensation for the injuries, pain and loss caused by taking the wrong medication is essential.
If you have been injured due to a prescription error, discuss your case with a medical malpractice lawyer who can help you determine where the mistake occurred and whom to pursue for compensation. The lawyers at the New Jersey firm of Hoffman DiMuzio provide caring, personal service combined with the resources of a large law firm to their clients across southern and central New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.
Publication approved by Michael W. Glaze, Esq., Associate of Hoffman DiMuzio