Recent headlines in the nation’s newspapers haveriveted public attention on medication errors-aproblem that has long plagued the medical community.1 Prescribing mistakes are common, andthey exact a costly toll: the US Institute of Medicineestimates that 98,000 Americans die each year becauseof a failure in the drug treatment process.2 Estimatessuggest up to 5% of all inpatients will experiencesome type of medication error.3,4
Recent headlines in the nation's newspapers haveriveted public attention on medication errors--aproblem that has long plagued the medical community.1 Prescribing mistakes are common, andthey exact a costly toll: the US Institute of Medicineestimates that 98,000 Americans die each year becauseof a failure in the drug treatment process.2 Estimatessuggest up to 5% of all inpatients will experiencesome type of medication error.3,4More people die each year of drug errors than fromcar accidents, AIDS, breast cancer, or workplace accidents.2A medication error is a "failure in the drug treatmentprocess (ie, prescribing, interpreting, dispensing,and administering) that leads to--or has the potential tolead to--harm."5 Many factors contribute to the prescribingerrors that occur every day--both in and out of thehospital.1 They include:
How to minimize the risk of a medication error? Theanswer to that vital question is the focus of a new feature,"Pitfalls In Prescribing," which begins on page 337. Eachmonth (in a few short pages), I will choose a commonlyprescribed drug (this month the spotlight is on warfarin),and will share key information with supporting literatureto help you use that agent safely. I will emphasize druginteractions, adverse effects, and appropriate dosageadjustments for decreased renal or liver function.It is my sincere hope that the details and strategiesunveiled in this series will help your patient attain the beneficialeffects the medications were designed to provide.
Finch CK, Self TH. 10 Common prescribing errors: how to avoid them.Consultant. 2001;41:766-771.
Kohn L, Corrigan J, Donaldson M, eds, for the Committee on Quality ofHealth Care in America, Institute of Medicine. To Err Is Human: Building a SaferHealth System. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000.
Ferner RE, Aronson JK. Medication errors, worse than a crime. Lancet. 2000;355:947-948.
Bond CA, Raehl CL, Franke T. Medication errors in United States hospitals.Pharmacotherapy. 2001;21:1023-1036.
Ferner RE, Aronson JK. Errors in prescribing, preparing, and giving medicines:definition, classification, and prevention. In: Aronson JK, ed. Side Effects ofDrugs Annual, 22. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science; 1999.
Lesar TS, Briceland L, Stein DS. Factors related to errors in medication prescribing.JAMA. 1997;277:312-317.
A study of physicians’ handwriting as a time waster. JAMA. 1979;242:2429-2430.