Life-Threatening Errors That Are Changing The Way Medicine Is Made

Updated on March 18, 2020

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives about 100,000 reports of suspected medication error annually. It may occur throughout the medication system — during the prescription, preparation or dispense. Instead of reducing this count, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the FDA established an international program to enhance patient care and safety in relation to the use of medicine.

Contamination during the manufacturing process

Recently, major chains have removed Zantac from their shelves under the recall request of the FDA after finding that the said drug may cause cancer. After the FDA found out that Zantac contains NDMA, a well-known carcinogen found on most petroleum-based products, the companies involved in the production of the said drug recalled the heartburn medication off the market. According to 1800 Injured, the risk of cancers associated with Zantac includes gastric, stomach, bladder and pancreatic cancer, among others. The said drug itself was safe, however, the manufacturing process contaminated Zantac causing it to be harmful to its patients. 

Unsafe labelling of pre-filled syringes

Institute of Safe Medication Process or ISMP has recently received an increasing number of complaints related to the lack of standardized labels on pre-filled syringes. Because the FDA does not hold compounding pharmacies the same labelling standards as they do on pharmaceutical companies, label variations are often taken lightly. An example of this is when compound pharmacies use mL strength instead of per total volume wherein the latter follows the FDA labelling standard and the other does not.  

Misheard requests 

Verbal and telephone orders from doctors are necessary, especially during an emergency procedure. During a telephone consultation, it is vital to take additional precautions to avoid confusion. Repeating and spelling the name back and stating the dosage in single digits can help prevent miscommunication and ensure that the right medication and dosage are given to the patient.  

Route errors for injections

The incorrect route for injectable drugs has a 50% mortality rate. Choosing the right route for a patient involves 3 factors: the part of the body being treated, how the drug works in the body, and the drug’s formula. If an IM drug was accidentally administered through IV, it may cause medication leaks on the surrounding tissues, which may cause further complications. 

Selection Error

With the increasing use of technology in medicine, selection error may become more common compared to handwritten ones. This occurs when a healthcare practitioner inputs the first few letters of a drug and the product strength and chooses the wrong drug on the pop-up list. ISMP suggests that health workers input the entire drug name on their computers to ensure that they dispense the right medication for the patient. 

As the third leading cause of death in America, preventing medication errors is not only the job of the healthcare system but also of the consumers as well. Patient drug education is everyone’s responsibility. If you are not confident with the drug that is presented to you by your doctor, ask questions, seek a second opinion and read through the medicine’s label to ensure that you are taking the right drug for your condition.

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