Medication Errors in U.S. Children Occur Every 8 Minutes, Study Says


Health care professionals who prescribe, dispense, and administer medications have an absolute duty to ensure that their patients receive the right dose of the right drug.  Hospitals and other facilities that employ such individuals also have an obligation to ensure that proper procedures are in place to prevent medication errors and that those procedures are followed by staff.  Despite this, research shows that medication errors are harming U.S. children at an alarming rate and often lead to deadly outcomes.

In a study performed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, researchers found that outpatient medication errors impact a child every eight minutes.  In yet another study at Johns Hopkins University, researchers concluded that up to 27% of medication orders for pediatric patients have errors.  And, between 2002 and 2012, there were an average of 63,358 medication errors in children reported annually to the poison control center, with 25% of those errors affecting patients younger than 1.

Pediatric patients are at higher risk for medication errors in part because medication dosing is often based on the patient’s weight, which can lead to miscalculations.  Children are also more vulnerable to mistakes given their small size.  Thus, when medication errors occur, they are more likely to be fatal—such as in Jake Steinbrecher’s case, an 8-year-old boy who died last June when a pharmacist reportedly dispensed a dosage of his ADHD medication that was 1,000 times higher than what he was prescribed.  Or 7-month-old August Elliot, who died last year after a nurse mistakenly administered medication intended for an adult patient.

Medical facilities and health care professionals are not doing enough to prevent medication errors and, unfortunately, many children are being harmed as a result.  Parents and caretakers should be aware of this risk of harm.  While parents and caretakers cannot prevent medication errors from occurring in the first instance, there are a few things they can do to reduce the likelihood of a medication error reaching their child:

•    Always ask the name of the drug, the dosage, and the reason it is being prescribed to your child.  Double check that the drug dispensed is the same drug and the correct dose.

•    Keep a list of all medications, vitamins, herbs, and over the counter drugs, that your child is taking.  Inform your child’s doctor and pharmacist of these medications and ask whether there could be interactions.

•    Be aware of signs that the drug may be the wrong drug.  Ask questions if the pill, capsule, or tablet is a different size, color, or produced by a different manufacturer.

Finally, if you or your child is the victim of a medication error, it is important to talk to an experienced attorney as soon as possible to determine your legal rights.  The attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan, PA have vast experiencing handling malpractice claims based on medication errors.  If you or a family member has been harmed by a medication error, contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation to discuss your potential claim.