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Older Patients at Greater Risk of Serious Medication Errors

Oxycodone TabletsElderly 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.

As 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 life-threatening.

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 contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.