Study Finds Alarming Number of Medication Errors Occurring at Hospital Pharmacies

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that adverse drug events (ADEs) cause over 770,000 injuries or fatalities to hospital patients each year. The estimated cost of these errors is $5.6 million per hospital.

Because of the recurring danger of hospital medication errors, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston conducted a study on hospital pharmacies over a seven-month period and made some startling findings:

  • Almost four percent of all medication filled by pharmacy technicians contained errors.
  • Nearly one of four medication errors stemmed from the pharmacy missing a potential adverse drug event.
  • Of all undetected ADEs, approximately 29 percent were serious or life-threatening.
  • Of the potential ADE errors, 36 percent contained the wrong medication, 35 percent contained the incorrect drug strength and 21 percent had the wrong dosage.

In an attempt to reduce the number of medication errors caused by pharmacy negligence, Illinois and Wisconsin have created laws for pharmaceutical dispensaries to follow, hoping that state regulation would adequately protect those taking prescription medications. However, medication errors have remained a serious problem.

It is the responsibility of prescribing physicians, hospitals and pharmacies to ensure that patients will not experience an adverse drug event. For their part, pharmacists must go beyond simply filling a prescription order correctly; they must apply their knowledge of the ordered drugs to ensure the drugs and dosages are safe for the patient, and to screen for potential adverse interactions between drugs.