According to a study published in Clinical Toxicology, researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital found there was a 100% increase in the rate of serious medication errors per 100,000 U.S. residents between 2000 and 2012.
The team analyzed calls to Poison Control Centers across the U.S. and discovered that medication errors, those that happen outside of healthcare facilities, impact people of all ages and are associated with an array of drugs.
The frequency and rate of medication errors increased for all age groups over the 13-year study, except for in children younger than six years old. In that population, the rate of medication errors spiked early and then fell after 2005, which the team associated with a decreased use of cough and cold medicines in young kids.
Medications most commonly associated with serious medical outcomes included cardiovascular drugs, painkillers and hormones. Combined, pain-relievers and cardiovascular products were related to more than 66% of all fatalities.
“Drug manufacturers and pharmacists have a role to play when it comes to reducing medication errors,” co-author Dr. Henry Spiller said in prepared remarks. “There is room for improvement in product packaging and labeling. Dosing instructions could be made clearer, especially for patients and caregivers with limited literacy or numeracy.”
The most common kinds of medication errors were taking or administering the wrong medication or the wrong dose and taking or giving a drug more than once. According to the team, one-third of medication errors led to hospital admission.
“Managing medications is an important skill for everyone, but parents and caregivers have the additional responsibility of managing others’ medications,” lead author Nichole Hodges said. “When a child needs medication, one of the best things to do is keep a written log of the day and time each medication is given to ensure the child stays on schedule and does not get extra doses.”
To help prevent medication errors, the researchers suggested that parents or caregivers keep track of all the drugs they take or administer throughout the day. If a family uses a pill planner, the team cautioned that they should use one that is child-resistant and store it out of sight.