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Understanding the causes of prescription errors

When people are prescribed a medication by a medical professional, they often receive their drugs from a local community pharmacy or through the mail from a mail-order pharmacy. At Phillips, Phillips & Smith-Delach, P.C., we understand that prescription errors can result in serious injuries and even kill a surprising number of people each year.

There are several places throughout the filling process that could ultimately lead to prescribing, filling and dispensing errors by medical professionals, pharmacists and anyone else who handles the prescription information along the way. The process begins when physicians prescribe a medication and end when the patient receives and takes the drug. According to the National Institutes of Health, prescription errors may include the following:

  •          Physicians prescribe the wrong medication, dose or dosage form for the patient’s condition.
  •          Poor handwriting may cause the pharmacy to misread the prescription or the drug could be called into the pharmacy incorrectly by medical staff.
  •          Harmful drug interactions or drug allergies are overlooked by both physicians and pharmacists.
  •          The wrong drug, drug dose or drug form is dispensed.
  •          The patient receives another patients’ medication.
  •          The patient takes the medication incorrectly because they were not told how to take the drug.

Medication errors can occur when physicians are not familiar with the clinical effects of the drugs they are prescribing or inadvertently prescribe a dose that is inadequate for the patient. For example, a prescription written for ranitidine to treat an infant’s gastroesophageal reflux is often prescribed in small doses. If the medication is given with instructions to take 50 milliliters when it should be 0.50 milliliters, it can cause serious problems.

To learn more about prescription errors, visit our page on medical malpractice.


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