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Apr 15, 2011

Injuries Related to Medical Errors Rising

In recent years, the proportion of hospitalizations due to medication errors has risen to more than 50%.  According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 1.9 million people in 2008 were harmed in some way due to side effects from medications or because they were prescribed the incorrect type or dose of medication.  In 2004, 1.2 million injuries were reported.  Errors included in the report do not differentiate between the responsible parties, but includes all combined errors made by prescribing doctors, pharmacists, nurses, as well as patients.  The medications most commonly linked with side effects or injuries in these types of hospital admissions were found to be corticosteroids, which are often prescribed in cases of asthma, arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and many other inflammatory conditions.  Other pharmaceuticals contributing to high numbers of these hospitalizations were analgesics, blood thinners, heart and blood pressure medications, and cancer drugs.  Patients over the age of 65 were most at risk for hospitalization due to side effects or other medication-linked injuries, and 20% of emergency cases occurred in children or teens.  

Certainly there are some cases when pharmaceutical medications can be helpful and life-saving, but as we can conclude from the report above, the side effects from medications and medication errors warrants more careful and conservative use.  It’s a shame that so many people have suffered and continue to suffer because of the medications they are put on when there are usually much safer and healthier alternatives available.    

Dr. Shana McQueen