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The FDA's role in preventing medication errors

Our medical malpractice clients often don't just want to know why they were injured by a doctor or hospital; they also want to know what they can do to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are one of the most important ways to hold negligent medical professionals accountable for what they do. Yet, a lawsuit alone will not necessarily stop someone else from committing the same error. Instead, we must also advocate for patient safety in Michigan and across the country.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one federal organization that is working to promote patient safety and prevent one of the most common forms of medical malpractice: medication errors. It has recently partnered with the Institutes for Safe Medication Practices in an effort to teach health care professionals how to more safely prescribe and administer medications, as well as help consumers use medications safely.

According to the FDA, it has received more than 95,000 medication error reports in the last ten years. However, the number of actual medication errors is probably much higher than that, since many more go unreported.

Medication errors are caused by a variety of issues, including:

  • Miscommunication between a doctor and a patient
  • Miscommunication between two medical professionals
  • Poorly written prescriptions
  • Confusion involving drugs with similar names
  • Improper or poor packaging
  • Failure to properly administer the correct drug dose
  • Improper administration of the drug (such as intravenous instead of intramuscular)
  • Poor training
  • Failure to properly read a patient's medical record

The FDA also plays a significant role in reviewing drug names, labels, packaging and other issues involving drug manufacturing and packaging. It reviews approximately 1,400 medication errors a month and determines what caused those errors to provide guidance to the medication industry.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "FDA 101: Medication Errors."

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