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Many medication errors stem from name confusion

Medication errors have many avoidable causes. A doctor may simply read a chart improperly and give out the wrong drug, the wrong dose or the proper drug and dose to the wrong patient.

To better understand this, researchers carried out a study to see exactly why mistakes were made. One interesting issue they uncovered was that a lot of medications have similar-sounding names, and confusion often caused the wrong drug to be used.

You may be thinking that such mistakes, while possible, would be uncommon. The study, though, found that 25 percent of the errors came from name confusion. A total of 33 percent came from confusion over labels and packages.

This leads to thousands of mistakes where pairs of drugs or medications just look or sound the same and get switched. When one doctor tells another what drug to use and the second doctor hears the wrong name, no one may ever catch the mistake. The second doctor doesn't even know he or she has made a mistake until there is an adverse effect or the first doctor checks up on the progress.

Medication errors are a serious issue. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies says there are about 1.5 million "adverse drug events" annually. Over 33 percent of those occur in outpatient settings, and the cost of that is about $1 billion every year.

As you can see, these events are very common and often completely preventable. If you have been harmed by a medical mistake, it's very important to know all of the legal rights that you have.

Source: NCBI, "Prescription Drug Labeling Medication Errors: A Big Deal for Pharmacists," G Jeetu and T Girish, accessed Nov. 09, 2017

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