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Study looks at prescription painkiller errors

When a doctor prescribes a patient a medication, it is very important that they not make any errors. Prescription errors could expose patients to harm, such as dangerous side-effects. Recently, a study investigated doctor errors regarding prescription painkillers.

Unfortunately, errors do occasionally occur when doctors prescribe medications like painkillers. The study found that an error occurs in about 3 of every 1,000 hospital-made painkiller prescriptions.

The study then investigated how the error rates varied based on the type of painkiller prescribed. The study found that drugs that were not prescribed frequently had the highest error rate. It also found that drugs with names that either sounded or looked like the name of another drug had a high error rate.

Thus, it appears that doctors might be more likely to make a prescription error when they are unfamiliar with the drug or when the drug has a confusing name.

The study went on to suggest some steps that hospitals could take to prevent doctor errors regarding painkiller prescriptions. These proposed solutions included having computer systems in place for prescriptions and making sure prescriptions made by doctors are reviewed by a nurse or pharmacist.

Medication errors can have major impacts on a patient's health. These errors can cause a patient to not receive proper treatment for an ailment and they can expose them to serious side effects. Thus, doctors should be doing everything they can to try to prevent prescription errors. Hopefully, medical professionals and hospitals will think about the results of this study when they consider their procedures for prescribing medications.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "Look-and-Sound-Alike Names Account for Many Painkiller Prescription Errors," 1 Feb 2011

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