Drug Errors will kill 25 people today

It’s rare a day goes by that I don’t read an article about deaths and other adverse drug effects caused by somebody making a mistake. A MISTAKE. That’s not the same as the ones where someone just has a bad reaction because their body can’t handle it.

I’ve blogged before about problems with prescription drugs, even though I believe strongly that drugs really can help people heal, and that drugs that allay difficult symptoms can be miracles.

But the idea behind drugs is that they alter the body in some way, and that alteration must be finely balanced. Unfortunately, it’s usually human beings who are making decisions about the balance, and human beings are fallible. They may be careless, or callous, or may even be more interested in profit.

Today I address only the mistakes made in how prescription drugs are administered — because we can’t fix what we don’t acknowledge, and too many health care providers would just as soon sweep these kinds of errors under the rug. My impetus is an article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer that explains how the number of adverse drug events is increasing.

According to the AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality — part of the federal govt), there are 400,000 PREVENTABLE medication errors in US hospitals each year.

  • That’s 33,333 each month.
  • That’s 7,692 each week.
  • That’s 1,095 each day.
  • And, according to the AHRQ, of those 1,095 errors today, 25 of those people will die. There are no statistics on how many will be affected long term, even if they don’t die.

And that accounts only for the medication errors in hospitals. Now multiply that by errors in doctor’s offices, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, or at home, not to mention dispensing mistakes made by pharmacies.

When I taught my children to drive a car, I taught them to assume that every other driver was out to get them — therefore, they needed to drive as if they were always dodging every other vehicle. It was simply a way of explaining defensive driving.

Sharp patients are well -advised to practice defensive dosing. Ask questions at every step. Question the drug a doctor prescribes. Question the amount you should take. Question the drug that’s in the bottle as you pick it up at a pharmacy. Learn about drugs on the internet (a good resource: http://www.diagknowsis.org/resources/drug.htm) If you are hospitalized, you or your advocate needs to ask questions before every dose or every shot.

Don’t be one of the 25 people who will die today, or tomorrow, or anytime because of a drug error caused by another human being. And share these facts with your loved ones so they won’t be among those prescription drug error deaths either.

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Trisha Torrey
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