Medication Mistakes Outside Of Hospital Settings Have Doubled: Study

New research suggests that Americans are making more mistakes taking their drugs today than they did at the turn of the century, resulting in more drug overdoses, accidental poisonings and other problems. 

In a study published in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology last week, researchers warn that the number of medication errors outside of a health care setting that resulting in serious injuries has doubled in recent years. The most common reasons for these mistakes were people taking either the incorrect dosage or taking the wrong medication.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Research Institute of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It looked at data from the National Poison Database System from 2000 through 2012.

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According to the findings, there were 67,603 exposures linked to unintentional medication mistakes outside of health care facilities during that time period. The study found that the overall average rate of these medication errors was 1.73 per 100,000 people. However, the study also found that the rate of these errors doubled from 2000 to 2012.

Researchers found that the most common types of errors were incorrect dosing, taking or giving someone the wrong medication, or accidentally taking a dose twice. Heart drugs were the most associated with serious injuries or death, followed by analegsics (particularly opioids and acetaminophen), and hormone drugs or hormone antagonists; especially diabetes drugs and insulin.

“Cardiovascular drugs were associated with one in five serious medication errors, nearly twice as many as any other category of pharmaceutical, and the annual number of serious medication errors attributable to cardiovascular drugs increased by 177% from 2000 to 2012,” the researchers noted. “Cardiovascular medication error exposures required a higher level of medical care more often than exposures to most other medications, with more than one-half of cardiovascular medication exposures resulting in hospital admission.”

In some cases, like the use of hormone and hormone antagonist drugs. the increases in errors came with massive increases in use, with the rate of errors increasing 345% over the course of the study as more and more Americans were diagnosed with diabetes and prescribed diabetic medications, particularly insulin, the researchers found.

“These findings suggest that the pharmaceutical categories identified here deserve special attention for medication error prevention efforts outside of the health care facility environment,” the researchers concluded. “All medication users would likely benefit from improvements in product packaging, labeling, and dosing instructions (with special consideration given for patients with limited health literacy and numeracy); prescription drug monitoring (to identify contraindicated medications); and physician and patient/parent/caregiver education.”


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