Medication mistakes a serious problem in the U.S.

Almost 1.5 million people suffer injuries due to medication errors in the United States ever year. Learn how to seek help for these injuries.

Missed diagnoses, wrong diagnoses, incorrect treatments, surgical missteps and more cause serious injury and even death to many people in New Mexico and around the United States every year. Errors involving prescription medications are also responsible for such injuries and fatalities.

According to the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, at least 1.5 million injuries caused by mistakes involving medications are recorded in the U.S. annually. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration believes that this number is actually much higher because many cases are never reported and therefore never recorded in such statistics.

Psychology Today highlights the danger by explaining that medication errors are the fourth most common cause of medical malpractice cases. The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error and Prevention notes that errors involving medications are defined as being "preventable."

All medication errors are not created equal

A prescription drug passes through many hands before it is ultimately consumed or used by a patient. This opens up the opportunity for an error to be introduced at multiple points and by multiple people or entities. For example, an error can be attributed to something in the manufacturing process which could put the pharmaceutical company at fault. An error could also happen because a pharmacist was unable to clearly read a physician's handwriting.

Some of the activities which can be involved in a medication mistake include labelling, packaging, compounding, naming, educating patients, monitoring drug use and dispensing a drug.

The difference between prescribing and prescription

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the prescription and the prescribing of a drug can both be involved in a mistake.

When prescribing fault is involved, a doctor or other prescribing professional errs in deciding which drug, dose or protocol to recommend.

When prescription fault is involved, the prescriber's instructions are not properly followed, causing an injury to the patient.

Medication errors can result due to the following:

• Orders that are very complex and hard to understand or follow.

• The recommendation of a drug not appropriate for a patient's condition

• The use of a medication that can have negative side effects with used with another medication that the patient also takes.

• The use of a medication that the patient is known to be allergic to.

• Poor handwriting that results in the wrong drug being fulfilled and given to the patient.

Other errors can be introduced when the pronunciation or spelling of the intended medication is very close to that of another medication.

What New Mexico residents should know

Patients have rights. Those include the right to seek legal help when injured due to someone else's negligence. Talking to an attorney when a medication error is suspected is recommended.