The rate of serious medication errors that occur outside of health care facilities doubled from 2000 to 2012, a new study finds.
Gillian Blease/Getty Images
When people take medicine at home, mistakes happen.
Some people end up taking the wrong dose of a medication or the wrong pill. Sometimes, they don’t wait long enough before taking a second dose.
Other times, it’s a health professional who’s at fault. A pharmacist might have dispensed a medication at the wrong concentration, for example.
These kinds of mistakes are on the rise, according to a study published Monday in the journal Clinical Toxicology.
The researchers looked at a small subset of the medication errors that happen in the U.S. every year. The FDA estimates that about 1.3 million people are injured by medication errors annually in the U.S.
The study analyzed data collected by poison control centers across the U.S. and counted only errors that happened outside health care facilities and resulted in serious medical outcomes. That’s defined in the study as symptoms that typically require some treatment to life-threatening situations and even death.
They found that the number of these cases doubled, from 3,065 cases in 2000 to 6,855 cases in 2012. In the 13 years covered by the study, more than 67,000 such errors occurred, and 414 people died as a result. Most of the mistakes were preventable, the study finds.
“We know that a third of the cases in this study resulted in hospital admissions, so these aren’t minor errors. These can be pretty significant,” says Nichole Hodges, a research scientist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and the study’s lead author. She says errors at home represent a significant public health burden and are likely undercounted.