Insulin is vital for diabetics as it controls blood sugars and manages hyperglycemia. However, according to research over the last several years, insulin has been linked to more medication errors than any other type of drug. In fact, there are approximately 23.6 million Americans that have diabetes mellitus, which is about eight percent of the population. Among adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, 14 percent take insulin and 13 percent take both insulin and oral medications.
With the large numbers of people taking insulin, it’s no wonder why medication errors among diabetics occur frequently. According to a study by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority on state hospitals, researchers found dispensing insulin to be among the most common types of medication errors made. The results include:
- Pharmacies gave the wrong kind of insulin out to 20 percent of patients
- Pharmacies handed out the wrong mix of insulin to 18.4 percent of patients
- Pharmacies made 17.4 percent of mistakes as a result of misreading the handwritten prescription
According to the American Diabetes Association, since there are 13 types of insulin on the market there are many brand names that can be easily mistaken for one another such as Novolog and Novolin, or Hummulin and Humalog. While drug mix-ups do occur among the different types of insulin, the most common type of insulin medication-related errors include drug omission and wrong-drug errors, according to the Pennsylvania Safety Authority. Of the reported events, patients have received:
- wrong dose of insulin
- no dose of insulin
- overdose of insulin
- underdosage of insulin
- extra dose of insulin
When medication errors with insulin occur, it can lead to trouble with glycemic control for diabetics. As a result of this study, researchers indicated that the variety of insulin products should be limited, standardized protocols should be developed, abbreviations should never be used when ordering insulin, and health care professionals should always double check prior to dispensing insulin.