Medication Errors in the UK Health System—237 million Per Year and Counting
A recent study sheds light on the danger and frequency of medication errors.
Pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs provide relief for a wide variety of conditions and diseases. A medication mistake can occur at any time from when a physician prescribes a drug to delivery of the drug to a patient. Medication errors are common. While some cause no harm, others cause injury and even death. A medication error that causes injury is considered an adverse drug event (ADE).
About half of all ADEs are considered to be preventable. Sometimes a patient is harmed by a medication even when it is dispensed and taken as prescribed. At present, about one-third of adults in the US take five or more medications. In the US, clinicians have access to approximately 10,000 prescription drugs. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) estimates there are approximately 700,000 visits made to Emergency Departments each year and 100,000 hospitalizations that occur due to ADEs.
In the UK, an analysis of national data conducted by researchers and published in the BMJ found approximately 237 million medication errors occur each year in England. These mistakes can result in harm, lasting injury, and an estimated 1700 deaths.
To develop their findings, researchers reviewed data and previous studies published up to October, 2018. The study found the following:
- Medication errors occur throughout the drug dispensing process. More than half the errors (about 54 percent) are made at the time the drug is administered, while 21 percent of errors occur when the drug is prescribed. Mistakes made while dispensing the drug account for about 12 percent of the errors.
- About three out of four medication errors are minor and do not cause injury. While the majority of errors do not cause harm, the remainder have the ability to cause moderate or severe injury.
- Medications commonly implicated in hospital admissions due to error of physician, patient, or pharmacist include some classes of drugs used to treat cardiac disorders, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, drugs used to treat blood clots, and inhaled corticosteroids. Approximately 80 percent of deaths from misuse of these drugs are caused by gastrointestinal bleeds.
The study presents sobering news about the danger of medications when prescribed or administered incorrectly. If you are seriously injured by an ADE, talk with our legal team about your case.
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