There is a new pilot program being conducted in New Zealand, which could reveal information on the number of medication errors outside hospitals and why they happen. The program, called Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Health and about 40 pharmacists and 40 doctors will voluntarily provide information, including,
- recording all medication errors that do not involve blood products
- giving feedback on why they think the errors were made and
- reporting on how they believe the error could be prevented in the future.
The program will end in May and it is hoped that it will shed light on the true number of medication errors and help make patients safer.
Pharmacies are not legally required to document errors
American pharmacies are not required to document all errors made in the dispensing of medications to patients. Reporting is voluntary.
Often, pharmacists are not even told of a medication mistake until there is a lawsuit involving them, or the State Board of Pharmacy sends them a Letter of Inquiry or Concern, or they are actually disciplined by a state board.
Why Are Medication Errors so Prevalent?
There are many reasons for pharmacy errors, including:
- Tired, overworked and rushed pharmacists and technicians
- Bad handwriting and transcription on scripts
- Failure to communicate between pharmacist and doctor
- Failure to cross-check for any contraindications or allergies by both pharmacist and doctor.
There are many other reasons why medication mistakes occur in both the community (pharmacy) and the institutional (hospital/nursing facility) setting. Errors can happen anywhere in the chain of care. No matter the reasons given for errors by your health care team, they have a duty to you to make sure your medicines are safe for you as much as they can.
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