Medication Errors: What They Are, How They Happen and How to Avoid Them

According to the US National Library of Medicine, adverse drug events (ADEs) and medication errors are an underreported burden, affecting nearly one million people annually. Adverse drug events, which are injuries as a result of medications due to overdose, medication errors, and other drug reactions, are a leading cause of emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Among adults, the leading causes of these hospital visits are attributed to ADEs caused by anticoagulants, antibiotics, opioids, and medications used to treat diabetes.

In diabetics, adverse drug events have been noticed after the prescription of either the 100 mg or 300 mg dosage of canagliflozin (Invokana), a once popular medication used to manage diabetes. In August of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration issued a black box warning on the medication, which is a serious hazard issued by the FDA to warn of serious side effects. This was a result of Invokana increasing the risk of a rare, serious genital infection, Fournier’s gangrene. Thousands of patients sought legal guidance as a result of not only this side effect, but also the increased risk of bone fractures and lower-limb amputations due to Invokana.

Medication errors can also lead to adverse drug events and are commonly preventable. These are described as any error that occurs in the medication use process, including during prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration, adherence, and/or monitoring. These most commonly result from a lack of knowledge about the patient, medication, or correct dosage. Medication errors are also caused by errors in following medial “rules” or common practices.

Consumers should report these events to the FDA themselves through the MedWatch Voluntary Reporting System, as physicians are not required to report them. If adverse side effects are experienced, reporting them through this system could help the FDA pinpoint the problem medications.

There are many reasons why these events are underreported, such as a difficulty in determining the root cause of the ADE and a lack of time enabled to report them. A study was conducted to help increase awareness of ADEs in hospitals where ADE “scorecards” were introduced to the clinical team to keep the staff informed on possible causes, as well as the number of adverse drug events that took place. Although this did not decrease the amount of events, clinical staff believed it helped increase general patient safety aside from adverse drug events.

Adverse drug events account for 9.5% of all direct healthcare costs, studies suggest, and each year, it is expected that the average direct costs per patient caused by these events is close to $500. These events affect hundreds of thousands of people annually, and can do severe harm physically and financially. You can prevent these from happening by asking your doctor questions about medications they prescribe, talking to the pharmacist about possible reactions, and doing your own research online.

~ Here’s to Your Health & Wellness

9/9/2022 4:00:00 AM
Darian Carrow
Written by Darian Carrow
Darian Carrow is a staff writer for who strives to inform consumers of dangerous products they may use. With experience in editorial communications, Darian hopes to be a trusted source for the general public, journalists, and wellness enthusiasts and has received certification in CDC Health Literacy fo...
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