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Older and younger patients vulnerable to medication errors

Advances in the development and production of pharmaceuticals has greatly improved the chances of patients who battle a variety of diseases, including many patients in Oklahoma. At the same time, however, these advances have meant that patients face increasing risks of adverse drug events. These ADEs are conditions in which patients experience harm from exposure to a particular medication.

The consequences from the administration of the wrong drug or at the wrong dosage can be severe and harm a patient and even threaten the patient's life in the most extreme cases. Such negligent acts on the part of a physician, pharmacist or nursing staff members can have serious long-term effects on a family emotionally and financially.

According to a survey conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 700,000 emergency department visits and 100,000 hospitalizations for ADEs each year across the country. The agency's report further notes that five percent of all hospitalized patients are affected by ADEs. The rate of ADE cases may be even higher for patients who are not hospitalized.

Although risk factors for ADEs are specific to patients and drugs, both elderly and pediatric patients are particularly vulnerable to these events, which are usually caused by medications that have known risk factors. These medications, however, can still provide significant benefits when used properly. A nurse or a caregiver must ensure that a patient gets the right drug in the right dosage at right time.

Federal and state governments and watchdog groups have taken steps to minimize ADE risks for patients. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, for example, maintains a list of high-alert medications that require those who prescribe and administer these drugs to take precautions at every step of the drug delivery process.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Medication Errors," Accessed on Nov. 13, 2014

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