Medication errors in the U.S. result in an estimated 1.5 million injuries each year one-third of them in hospitals and all of them preventable. Nationally, more than 100,000 people a year, more than half of them over the age of 60, die from medication errors. Adults older than 65 who take an average of four to six drugs, bear the brunt of what health experts have been calling a crisis in American medicine since the Institute of Medicine issued its 2006 landmark report, To Err Is Human.
Pharmacy mistakes, distracted pharmacists in busy stores, hospital admission errors, and changes in hospital discharge instructions topped the list of the most common medication errors. But patient error, often exacerbated by memory issues or poor communication with medical providers, was also at fault.
Pharmacies and hospitals are working to implement bar codes, computerized records and other procedures to decrease medication errors; but patients must also take steps to protect themselves.
- Patients should know the brand and generic names of drugs they take and why it has been prescribed; surprisingly, many patients have little understanding of their medication regimen
- Buying all of your drugs at one pharmacy can minimize potentially adverse drug interactions, particularly when you have multiple doctors; pharmacy computers are programmed to alert pharmacists of drug conflicts and allergies
- Keeping an up-to-date written record of your medications and taking it with you to all medical appointments can help you and your doctors keep your medications straight