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Last Update: 11/15/18

Medication errors, drug mistakes, and instances where medicine has hurt or killed a patient are notoriously under-reported in the United States; sometimes, it is only the suspicion of loved ones and their diligence in discovering what has happened to cause an untimely death or serious injury that results in the revelation that a doctor, nurse, or other care provider has made a tragic mistake in the giving of medicines or drugs.




The Institute for Safe Medication Practices Has Been Fighting Against Medication Errors for 35 Years

There is an organization that has been trying to lift the veil on the horrors of medication errors in this country: the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is the sole non-profit organization operating in the United States working toward ending medication error injuries in this country. Since 1975, ISMP has been researching and educating both health care professionals as well as the public at large on the need for increased medication safety as well as monitoring medication errors through a variety of methods – including voluntary reporting by practitioners as well as patients.

ISMP operates the Medication Errors Reporting Program (MERP) where medical professionals can report drug mistakes and medication errors.  Additionally, it runs the Medical Error Recognition and Revision Strategies Program (MERRSP) where drug companies work to alter causes of medication errors and drug mistakes by changing pharmaceutical industry practices such as changing labels on medicines or altering drug names to avoid confusion between two similarly-spelled medicines.

What is a Medication Error According to the ISMP?

According to the Institute’s guidelines, the following definition for “medication errors” is suggested as the industry standard:

“A medication error is any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer. Such events may be related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing; order communication; product labeling, packaging, and nomenclature; compounding; dispensing; distribution; administration; education; monitoring; and use.”

Types of Medication Errors: the Official ISMP Medication Error Index

In 1996, ISMP’s Medication Errors Reporting Program (MERP) established its “Medication Error Index” to organize medication errors and drug mistakes by how serious the harm done to the patient. This Index is shared with drug manufacturers, pharmacies, hospitals, doctors, care facilities, clinics, and other health care providers in the hopes that it will provide a standardized way to track medication errors in this country.

Information is provided to build the Medication Error Index by reports filed by health care providers (with their names and contact information protected from revelation unless the doctor, nurse, etc., gives their okay) as well as others in medical care with knowledge of a medication error and patients or loved ones who believe that harm has occurred due to a drug mistake.

The ISMP collects reports of medication errors, drug mistakes, vaccine errors, adverse drug reactions, medication injury close calls, and more, including:

  • Errors in the prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administering, and monitoring of medications and vaccines;
  • Wrong drug, wrong strength, or wrong dose errors;
  • Wrong patient errors;
  • Confusion over look-alike/sound-alike drugs or similar packaging;
  • Wrong route of administration errors;
  • Calculation or preparation errors; and
  • Misuse of medical equipment.

Do You Know About a Possible Medication Error or Drug Mistake?

If you think that you or someone you know has been the victim of a drug dosage mistake or medication error, then first make sure that they have received proper medical treatment, of course, as well as protecting their possible legal claims via documentation of the event for later evaluation by a personal injury lawyer, as well as reporting the event to the ISMP online here.

What Should You Do?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by a medication error, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.


FDA Consumer Warning on Dangers of Medication Errors and Drug Mistakes



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