Prescription Drugs, Patient Safety and Medical Malpractice Risks

Patient Safety Awareness Week runs March 2 through March 8 this year, and our Boca Raton medical malpractice attorneys are urging all Floridians to take a moment to consider their own prescription drug safety. magicpills

Certainly medication errors are a serious problem, and doctors, pharmacists and health care professionals have a responsibility throughout the prescribing process to ensure patients are given the appropriate drug in the correct amount each and every time.

But that doesn’t mean patients are helpless.

The National Patient Safety Foundation’s theme for Patient Safety Awareness Week this year is “Navigate Your Health… Safely.” The idea is that patients do possess power to act preemptively – and possibly prevent serious illness, injury or death resulting from diagnostic mistakes, prescription errors or drug abuse.

The NPSF notes that most often, a patient starts the journey with a diagnosis. However, the foundation reports that one out of every 10 diagnoses is incorrect, delayed or missed entirely. The collective result is approximately 40,000 to 80,000 deaths annually.

Here again, patients and families may assume that diagnosis is not something over which they have any level of control. While it is true that patients are not the professionals in these situations, they can press their doctor for accurate results.

The first way patients can get involved is to become more active in the process. Ask lots of questions. Don’t assume your doctor has thought of all possibilities. Be a good historian of your own medical history and learn to trust your judgment.

You can help your doctor by keeping records of your symptoms and whether or not any responded well to prior treatments. If you are doubtful regarding whether a diagnosis is proper, speak up. Ask what else it could be, what your expectations should  be and when and how to follow up if symptoms persist or worsen.

If your symptoms remain unresolved or you are concerned your doctor may not be listening, get a second opinion.

Another major problem with regard to prescriptions is abuse. The National Safety Council reports that since 1999, the number of deaths attributed to prescription painkillers has spiked by more than 300 percent. Every single day, an average of 45 Americans die from unintentional overdoses just on prescription pain relievers.

The problem is serious, as 1 in 20 Americans have reported using prescription painkillers recreationally in the last 12 months. In many cases, people start out with prescription drugs and then segue into heroin, which is cheaper, more potent and has about the same effect. Some patients make the mistake of thinking that if a drug is prescribed, it must be safe. Painkillers in particular can be incredibly addictive.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse advises that patients can help avoid addiction by always taking medicine as it is prescribed. This means taking the proper dosage, being aware of potential interactions with other drugs (including alcohol) and never changing or increasing the regimen without first talking it over with the doctor.

Patients also need to let doctors know about all other prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements they take before receiving a medication. Any expired or unused medications should be discarded.

Finally, being a safe patient means reducing  the risk that you will fall victim to medication error. A study from Health Services Research indicates that some 4.5 million people are rushed to the emergency room by ambulance for adverse medication effects.

Patients should first try to explore the possibility of limiting their medication. Researchers have found that those patients taking six to eight different medications were four times as likely to be treated for an adverse medication event than those taking just one or two drugs.

Additionally, patients should speak up if the prescription they receive from the pharmacist doesn’t look or taste right or has a different effect than usual.

These measures may not completely eliminate the risk that patients endure in receiving medical treatment, but they can certainly help to reduce their chances of suffering a serious outcome.

Contact a medical malpractice lawyer in Palm Beach County at the Hollander Law Firm: 888-751-7770.