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Medical Malpractice Involving Drug Errors May be Higher Than Reported

By: Anapol Weiss

Since 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received nearly 30,000 reports of medication errors. As these reports are voluntary, the Agency believes the number of medication errors that actually occur is much higher.

A medication error is “… any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer,” according to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention. The FDA began to dedicate more efforts to reduce medication errors following a 1999 report by Institute of Medicine (IOM) titled, “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System.” According to the report, more than 7,000 hospital deaths each year are related to medication errors.

Patient Bar Code Labels

One of the strides the FDA has made involves bar code labels. In July 2002, the FDA proposed a new rule requiring bar codes on certain drug and biological product labels. Health care professionals would use bar code scanning equipment to make sure the correct drug, does and route of administration is given to the correct patient at the correct time. The FDA’s rule on bar code labeling took effect in April 2004 and applies to prescription drugs, certain biological products, and over-the-counter drugs commonly used in hospitals.

Drug Name Confusion

The FDA reviews about 300 drug names a year before they are marketed in order to minimize confusion regarding drug names that look or sound alike. As a result, about one-third of the names proposed by drug companies are rejected. The FDA then tracks error reports involving drug name confusion after the drugs are approved, alerts health professionals, and provides recommendations for avoiding future problems.

Drug Labeling

In May 2002, an FDA regulation went into effect that aims to help consumers avoid overlooking important label information on over-the-counter drugs. The regulation requires a standardized “Drug Facts” label – modeled after the Nutrition Facts label on foods – on more than 100,000 over-the-counter drug products. The label clearly lists information including the drug’s active ingredients, uses, warnings, dosage and directions.

Getting Legal Help

Despite the efforts of government agencies to reduce medication errors and protect consumers, health care professionals still make deadly medication errors. Any medication mixup or error during the process can have life-threatening consequences – from prescribing drugs to determining dosage to filling prescriptions. When a patient is injured, however, determining fault often involves a complex legal process. Our Pennsylvania and New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers have decades of success representing those hurt by medical negligence.

Contact Anapol Weiss for assistance if you believe you have a medication error lawsuit. The medical malpractice lawyers at Anapol Weiss are committed to ensuring patients and their families get justice.