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The Food and Drug Administration has issued two guidance documents with the goal of reducing medication errors. These types of mistakes are a leading cause of fatalities in the U.S., but in many cases they are preventable. According to the Institute of Medicine, approximately 7,000 people around the country die on an annual basis from causes related to medications.
There have been a number of common causes of medication errors identified by the FDA, including unclear label abbreviations, names that sound or look similar, and labeling and packaging that makes errors more likely to occur. According to the Institute of Safe Medication Practices, brand names that are confusingly similar are a frequent source of medication errors.
The two documents provided by the FDA cover ways for ensuring that look-alike and sound-alike medications are able to be told apart and how to ensure that packaging and medication information on it is as user-friendly as possible. Additionally, the agency recommends that pharmacists verify and read back all medications that are called in or transferred. Pharmacists are also urged to speak with patients about their medications when they are being transferred to another area or are discharged.
The failure to prescribe someone with the correct medication or the correct dosage of a medication could be deemed medical malpractice if the patient’s medical condition worsens or other harm occurs. In many cases, additional medical treatment will be necessary, and a patient’s finances could take another hit due to lost wages when a return to work is delayed. People who are in this situation may want to have a discussion with an attorney to see what recourse may be available to them.