Elderly patients are often prescribed numerous medications, particularly
when they are hospitalized. Unfortunately, many facilities aren’t
doing enough to prevent dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects.
Frequency of Medication Errors
Medication errors are one of the
most common forms of medical malpractice. An estimated one million medication mistakes occur every year, resulting
in the death of over 7,000 patients. Some of the most common medication
mistakes include administering the wrong prescription, dispensing the
incorrect dosage, and failing to detect adverse side effects.
Protecting Older Patients from Harm
Many seniors are on several medications to treat chronic conditions, such
as high blood pressure, arthritis, or diabetes. Because they often prescribed
the medications by more than one doctor, who may not communicate regarding
the patient’s overall care, there is a greater risk of medication
error. The risks are compounded if the patient is hospitalized and prescribed
even more medications.
highlighted in a recent California Healthline article, certain medications can cause dangerous side effects, such as excessive
bleeding or low blood pressure, in older patients. The doses for many
other drugs must be altered for elderly patients, and while others should
be prescribed with caution. Unfortunately, many hospitals fail to carefully
scrutinize the medication records of older patients.
In one case described in the article, a doctor had prescribed blood pressure
medication for a 99-year-old woman at a dose that could cause her to faint
or fall. In another case, an 84-year-old woman hospitalized for knee surgery
was taking several drugs that were not meant for older patients because
of their severe potential side effects.
The risks don’t end when patients are discharged because many patients
are uncertain how long to take the new medications or how they may impact
their current drug regimen. A
2013 study found that almost 20 percent of patients discharged had prescription-related
medical complications that could have been prevented, and 5 percent were
Given the risk of medication errors, it is imperative that health care
facilities have safeguards in place to detect errors before they can cause
patient harm. Safety advocates also encourage patients to speak up if
they are concerned about a medication.
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to medication
error or other serious medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation.
For more information, please
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a