Doctors make 'too many errors' when prescribing drugs, GMC review says

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: doctors, errors, prescriptions

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(NaturalNews) A new review compiled by the U.K.'s General Medical Council (GMC) expresses concern over the alarming number of medication errors caused by general practitioners (GPs) in the U.K. According to the data, as many as 20 percent of patients taking prescription drugs have been victims of at least one medication error per year, and nearly one-quarter of these cases have been severe or fatal.

Based on a sampling of 1,200 patients of all ages, a panel found that doctors make more prescription or dosing errors for elderly and young patients than they do for other age groups, which can be particularly serious. Over the course of the year, 18 percent of all patients experienced at least one prescription error a year, while 38 percent of those over the age of 75 experienced at least one medication error a year. Children under the age of 14 were also found to be more prone to medication and dosing errors.

"It is deeply worrying that such dangerous mistakes are being made," said Katherine Murphy from the Patients Association, a private, volunteer-based patient advocacy organization. "Patient safety is paramount yet still these avoidable errors are slipping through the net."

In some of the more severe cases, patients were prescribed drugs to which they were allergic, or carelessly prescribed high-risk drugs that required extensive monitoring without being warned about potential misuse and side effects. In roughly four percent of cases, patients experienced serious side effects as a result of errors, and some of them died.

Medication errors in the U.S. kill tens of thousands every year

In the U.S., the situation appears to be even worse, as a 2006 report by the Washington Post explains that at least 1.5 million Americans are injured, sickened, or killed every single year as a result of prescription drugs. According to data released by the Institute of Medicine (IoM) at that time, at least one hospital patient a day is harmed by a medication error in the U.S. Collectively, the costs of remediating drug-related injuries in the U.S. tops $3.5 billion a year (http://www.washingtonpost.com).

"Everyone in the health-care system knows this is a major problem, but there's been very little action, and it's generally remained on the back burner," said Charles B. Inlander, one of the panel members advising the IoM, to the Washington Post. "With this report, we hope to give everyone involved good, hard information on how they can prevent medication errors, and then create some pressure to have them implement it."

It is estimated that nearly half a million people in the U.S. suffer a medication-related adverse event every year, while as many as 100,000 in the U.S. die annually from adverse drug reactions (http://www.nafwa.org).

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