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Jason R. Schultz P.C

Prescription Errors: Prescribing the Wrong Dosage or the Wrong Drug

Although prescription errors vary, a select few tend to occur more often: prescribing the wrong dosage or prescribing the wrong drug. Both are serious mistakes that can have deadly consequences.

These types of medical errors can occur in a doctor’s office or a hospital. In some cases the mistake originates at a pharmacy. There are even situations where a combination of parties contributed to a patient receiving the wrong dosage or drug.

Prescription Errors Stemming from a Wrong Dosage

When a doctor prescribes an incorrect dosage, this can lead to a patient either receiving too much or too little of the medication. Too much can cause injuries. For instance, a dosage of chemotherapy much higher than should be given could be toxic to the patient, even lethal.

If a patient receives too little of a medication, then it may not properly treat the medical condition. Using the same example of chemotherapy, a dosage that is too low may not adequately destroy cancer cells. The cancer may worsen if not properly treated.

Sometimes the doctor fails to take into consideration the patient’s age, weight or medical conditions when prescribing a certain dosage. This can significantly impact not only the drug’s effectiveness but may cause harm to the patient. An example would be prescribing an adult dosage of a medicine to a child.

Prescription Errors Stemming from a Wrong Drug

Many drugs sound similar to others, even though they treat totally different conditions. This may lead to prescription of the wrong drug. As a result, the incorrect medication could harm the patient. This is especially true if it adversely interacts with other drugs the patient is taking.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices offers an extensive list of commonly confused drug names, a few examples are:

  • Cymbalta and Symbyax;
  • Lexapro and Loxitane;
  • Lunesta and Neulasta; and
  • Oxycodone and Hydrocodone.

Similar to receiving a dosage that is too low, not receiving the correct drug could also prevent proper treatment of the medical condition. As a result, the patient’s condition may get progressively worse.

Common Causes of Prescription Errors

No matter the type of mistake, the one thing that almost all of these cases have in common is that they are a result of human error. This means that the majority of wrong dosages and drugs are preventable.

Mistakes may be the result of miscommunication because of illegible handwriting on a prescription. As a result, the pharmacy could misread which medicine the doctor is prescribing. The good news is that paperless medical facilities can reduce these errors. However, some may still make a mistake when manually entering the prescription.

Another cause for slipups stems from a pharmacist misreading a prescription. The doctor may have written it or entered it correctly, but for some reason the pharmacy mixes up the name of the drug or mixes up numbers, indicating the wrong dosage on the label.

In some cases, others are responsible for communicating or sending a prescription, such as a nurse working with a doctor. It could be that the correct amount or drug was prescribed but the nurse makes a mistake when administering it. Or someone who works for the pharmacy and is primarily responsible for answering the phone and taking prescriptions writes down or communicates the wrong information.

Insufficient training or a lack of experience can also contribute to a prescription error. So can other factors that impact the medical professional’s ability to make sound judgments, such as sleep deprivation or stress because of inadequate staffing.

Whatever the cause, if the error was related to negligent actions, injured patients can seek consultation with an attorney to discuss legal options. Call Jason Schultz today at 404-474-0804.


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