Patient Medication Errors Doubled Over 13 Years

John Commins, July 10, 2017

The most common errors were taking or giving the wrong medication or incorrect dosage, and inadvertently taking or giving a medication twice, researchers have found. 

The frequency of serious medication errors by patients or their caregivers outside of a healthcare setting more than doubled from 2000 to 2012, according to a study in Clinical Toxicology.

Researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital analyzed calls to poison control centers across the country over the 13-year period about medication errors that resulted in serious medical problems.

The rate of serious medication errors per 100,000 people more than doubled from 1.09 in 2000 to 2.28 in 2012. These errors occurred mostly in the home, affected people of all ages, and were associated with a wide variety of medications.

“Drug manufacturers and pharmacists have a role to play when it comes to reducing medication errors,” said Henry Spiller, a co-author of the study, and director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s. “There is room for improvement in product packaging and labeling. Dosing instructions could be made clearer, especially for patients and caregivers with limited literacy or numeracy.”

The most common errors were taking or giving the wrong medication or incorrect dosage, and inadvertently taking or giving the medication twice. Among children, dosing errors and inadvertently taking or giving someone else’s medication were also common errors. One-third of medication errors resulted in hospital admission.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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