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What is the FDA's role in preventing medication errors?

Patients in the San Diego area expect that the medicine prescribed by a doctor will help to heal what ails them. Unfortunately, however, due to a variety of potential reasons, a medication error may result, leading to patient harm. Medication errors are preventable events that ultimately lead to improper use of medication by a patient or actual harm to a patient.

Sometimes a medication error results from a pharmacist's failure to read a doctor's handwriting properly or through a dosage mistake. It is essential to prevent as many medication errors as possible, and prevention happens at all levels of the health care system. The FDA tries to prevent medication errors by taking the steps it can to prevent patient harm.

One common way that medication errors occur is through receipt of the wrong drug. To prevent confusion regarding potentially similar drug names, the FDA reviews hundreds of proposed brand names per year, rejecting approximately one-third of the submitted names. The FDA coordinates with drug companies as the companies develop labels and packaging to prevent errors that could result from similarly-appearing designs.

Proper labeling is essential to reducing medication errors, and the FDA requires a standardized drug facts label for all over-the-counter drugs. Additionally, the FDA requires bar codes to be placed on certain drug labels to help ensure the correct patient is receiving the correct drug in the proper dosage. The FDA also works to create awareness about how medication errors may be prevented and partners with organizations to help spread this message.

Receipt of the wrong medication, or an incorrect dosage of the right medicine, can cause serious harm to a patient. The FDA is working to reduce medication errors, but much of the responsibility for a potential error lies with whomever provides the medication to a patient. If you or a loved one have been harmed due to a possible medication error, an attorney can discuss with you the potential options for financial recovery.

Source: FDA.gov, "FDA 101: Medication Errors", accessed June 12, 2015

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