Drug Development and Error Prevention
National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention defines a medication error as any avoidable event that may result in inappropriate medication use and harm to a patient while the medication is in control of a health care professional, patient, or the consumer. Medication errors can occur at any stage throughout the drug delivery system.
Medication errors are commonly categorized based on the stage they occur in the drug development and delivery process. This may happen during manufacturing when the wrong quantities or contents are used to make a drug. when making and communicating orders, the physician may enter the incorrect information in the computer. Prescription errors may include over-prescription, under prescription, or wrong instructions for the use of a particular drug. Transcription errors occur when the physician has incorrect information regarding a drug. Dispensing errors may happen due to wrong labels or inappropriate formulation and administration of the drug. Finally, the patient might mistakenly use the wrong medication in the wrong way, either due to ignorance or lack of knowledge about the medicine. This is common in self-medicating using over the counter pills.
When a medication error occurs, the consequences may be lethal. Some may cause subtle effects that are short-lived and not life-threatening. For instance, a medication error may cause a mild rash that only lasts for a few days. However, some errors may cause serious harm to the patient. A recent study indicated that at least 30% of patients who experienced severe injuries from a medication error either died or were disabled for a significant period of time.
Theoretically, all medication errors are avoidable at all stages. Different measures can be put forward in an effort to reduce these errors. Prescription errors, for instance, can be reduced by the introduction of a computerized prescribing system that pharmacists can use. However, the best way to avoid medication errors is to play an active role in your health care as well as that of your loved ones. Make sure that you are aware of the contents of any drug, and if you have any doubt, do not hesitate to share the concerns with your pharmacist or health care provider.
Medication safety can be enhanced by first embracing the fact that errors do happen. These errors can, however, be reduced by focusing on the system as a whole and not on a single physician or nurse that is associated with that error. Reporting these errors in a blame-free environment and coming up with a plan that focuses on identifying the cause and appropriate measures necessary to prevent a repeat of the error.