Looking for Regional Information?

Drug Error: A Patient Problem After 65

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/2/2006 | Health

Getting killed by drug errors has become quite common in the USA in recent years! It is the seniors who are more susceptible to a death caused by drug error than those of people of a younger age. According to an estimate, patients in the age group of 65 years or more run the risk of drug error occurrences, nearly seven times higher than those under 65 years of age!

What are the factors that account for drug errors? Drug error mainly takes place in the following three instances:

l     When the patient is already taking some medicine, the newly prescribed drug may incur adverse effects due to the incompatibility with the previous drug. This is the most common drug error.

l     In some instances, the consumption of a particular drug may aggravate the patients condition. This is the second type of drug error.

l     The dosage prescribed for a particular medicine may produce wrong effect. This is also a kind of drug error.

If findings of a number of health research studies are to be believed, it is the senior people, particularly those above the age of sixty-five, who are at the greatest risk of drug error. The drug errors in most of the cases are the result of prescription errors. Just look at these statistics and you will understand why it is the seniors that fall victim to drug errors over and over again!

Most of the senior persons are treated by more than one doctor and naturally have to take more than one prescription. On an average, a senior citizen who is being treated by two doctors receives nearly 27 prescriptions in a year. Thus, the patients in this age group run the risk of falling victim to at least ten errors per year.

According to the experts, it is a kind of communication breakdown between the prescribers that are mostly responsible for these tragic cases of drug errors. In general, pharmacies routinely cross check between the prescriptions to prevent clash between two conflicting drugs, but this step proved to be insufficient to prevent drug errors. Most of the specialist doctors are of the opinion that the primary care physicians must review on a priority basis all the medicines being taken by the patient prior to referring them to a specialist doctor, and this step will, hopefully, bring down the number of the cases of drug errors.

The Food and Drug Administration of America have made it clear, that the entire health care sector will have to switch to the use of bar codes within a specified time period. Not only the medicines, all other biological products including units of blood in hospitals must bear bar codes for easy identification. Even the hospital patients will be required to wear bracelets with identifying bar codes. This is anticipated to reduce the drug mistakes and ensure that the right patient is being given the right drug, in the proper dosage and at the right time.

In order to make the bar code system effective, the computer system must be foolproof. On the one hand, all the medical history data relating to a patient should be entered correctly, on the other hand, the software must be of very high quality. If software malfunctions, there is still a chance of gross medication mistakes.