Dangerous Drugs: Patient Medication Errors Doubled
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, July 19, 2017 07:27 AM

Ever wonder why the State of Texas uses the term “dangerous drug” when talking about prescription medication?  Here is some new research that will shed light on this term for you. In Texas, “dangerous drug means a device or a drug that is unsafe for self-medication.”  “Prescription means an order from a practitioner, or an agent of the practitioner designated in writing as authorized to communicate prescriptions … to a pharmacist for a dangerous drug to be dispensed.” [1]  Prescription medication is dangerous.  How dangerous? It is safe to say that every day between 3500 and 5000-or-more people experience a medication error and 1300 to 1600 per day are hospitalized because of it. 

The frequency of serious medication errors by patients or their caregivers outside of a healthcare setting more than doubled from 2000 to 2012.  Researchers analyzed calls to poison control centers across the country over the 13-year period about medication errors that resulted in serious medical problems.  The rate of serious medication errors per 100,000 people more than doubled from 1.09 in 2000 to 2.28 in 2012. 

Most will think “Oh, 1 or 2 people per 100000.  That’s not so bad.”  It doesn’t sound bad until you remember that “nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half take two.” [2]  With the American Population being 324.1 million [3] that is about 226.9 million people on prescription medication. At the rate described here, between 4300 and 5000 people experience “serious medication errors.” That still doesn’t sound so bad, but when you note that this is a rate of error, this 4000-5000 rate becomes a “per day” figure.

In fact, “medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in the United States.” [4] 1.3 million divided by 365 days is, in fact, 3561.6 injuries per day using figures previous to this latest research.

These errors occurred mostly in the home, affected people of all ages, and were associated with a wide variety of medications.  The most common errors were taking or giving the wrong medication or incorrect dosage, and inadvertently taking or giving the medication twice. Among children, dosing errors and inadvertently taking or giving someone else's medication were also common errors. One-third of medication errors resulted in hospital admission.  Thats approximately 1300 to 1600 people per day.  

The medication categories most frequently associated with serious outcomes were cardiovascular drugs (21%), analgesics (12%), and hormones/hormone antagonists (11%). Most analgesic exposures were related to products containing acetaminophen (44%) or opioids (34%), and nearly two-thirds of hormone/hormone antagonist exposures were associated with insulin. Cardiovascular and analgesic medications combined accounted for 66% of all fatalities in this study.

Data for the study were obtained from the National Poison Data System, which is maintained by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Source:  https://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/GeneralPrimaryCare/66646

[1] http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/HS/htm/HS.483.htm

[2] http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/nearly-7-in-10-americans-take-prescription-drugs-mayo-clinic-olmsted-medical-center-find/

[3] Google

[4] https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/MedicationErrors/ucm080629.htm