Study: Medication errors more prominent in southern states

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When we go to the doctor, we expect that we will be treated properly and hope that we will leave feeling better. Often times, medication is prescribed to treat a particular illness and we trust that the doctor has chosen the safest and most effective medicine available, and that the pharmacists will fill the prescription properly. Mistakes in either of these areas can create serious problems for patients, but the truth is that medication errors happen all too often.

A recent study took a look at how often mistakes are made when doctors prescribe patients with “high-risk medications.” The results of their research were very worrisome, and people in Tennessee should be aware of the dangers that they face when it comes to these potentially harmful errors. In fact, the study notes that residents in southern states are among those who are the most affected by this upsetting trend.

The study was conducted to explore how senior patients on Medicare Advantage plans are treated for various illnesses. The researchers discovered that one out of every five seniors was wrongfully prescribed high-risk medications instead of the safer alternatives. The drugs that are being given to these patients could interact poorly with other medications, they could have dangerous side effects or they could simply cause unnecessary harm to a patient.

To make matters worse, the researchers noted that residents who live in the South are at a higher risk of being prescribed these medications. In some areas in particular, patients are 12 percent more likely to be improperly treated with high-risk medication. Some people suggest that cultural differences between people who live in northern states and people who live in southern states are a significant factor in this disparity. Others point to the predominance of chronic conditions as a reason.

Patients generally are not equipped with the same understanding of how drugs work that doctors and pharmacists are supposed to have. We expect these people to take care in prescribing the safest medicine possible and often do not suspect that they have made a mistake. Sadly, in many cases an error is not detected until the damage has already been done.

Whether an error involved the wrong medicine, the wrong dosage or improper instructions, victims of a medication error have the right to take legal action against a negligent party.

Source: Consumer Affairs, “How do you know you’re being prescribed the right medicine?” Daryl Nelson, April 15, 2013