People make mistakes every day, and pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are no exception. However, when pharmacy staff make errors, the consequences can be serious, especially if children are involved. Sadly, prescription mistakes made with children’s medications can cause serious injuries and great harm as children are smaller and can only tolerate a certain amount of medication in their bodies—making them more susceptible to prescription errors.
In fact, children and infants are the most vulnerable to medication mistakes, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, medication is often necessary to treat medical conditions and make kids better. This is why it is critical that doctors prescribe the correct medications and pharmacists fill the prescription accurately to keep kids healthy and safe.
Unfortunately, medication errors involving children’s prescriptions occur far more often than people realize. This is because pharmacies are not required to report medication errors that occur and they often try to cover them up. The only way people hear of pharmacy errors is when a news organization covers a story about a type of medication mistake that occurred due to pharmacy negligence.
Types of Prescriptions Errors That Affect Children
Pharmacy errors often happen because a pharmacist or pharmacy technician is distracted, tired, pressured, or too busy due to understaffing issues. Consequently, the following types of mistakes can occur:
- Wrong mediation. It is possible for a doctor to prescribe the wrong medication to a child and for a pharmacist not to catch it. It is also possible for a pharmacist to take a correct prescription and accidentally fill the wrong medication due to a sound-alike or look-alike medication. Sometimes pharmacists are so busy that they try to fill a prescription and answer someone’s question at the same time, which can cause them to be distracted. Any amount of distraction can cause a pharmacist to have a lapse in judgment or get prescriptions mixed up, resulting in a child receiving the wrong drug. If a child gets an incorrect medication, the side effects can cause a child to suffer unnecessarily.
- Wrong dose. One of the most common errors made with children’s medications is giving a child the wrong dose of drug. Typically, this mistake involves giving a child a dose meant for an adult, which can lead to an overdose and a very serious and even life-threatening situation. Children generally take liquid medications, which means pharmacists may have to dilute a drug or calculate the correct dose. If a pharmacist fails to dilute the medication or makes a mistake entering a decimal point, a prescription for 5 milliliters may end up getting filled for 50 milliliters. When pharmacists make calculations errors, a child may end up taking too much of a drug and suffer from devastating consequences.
- Insufficient warnings and instructions. Sometimes a pharmacy may provide a child with the correct medication, but make a mistake with the label or the instructions. For instance, the label may show the wrong amount to take—resulting in a child taking more medication than is safe—or the dosage instructions may be an adult’s dosage instructions and wrong altogether.
- Other errors. Because the pharmacy is a fast-paced work environment, any type of mistake can occur behind the pharmacy counter. For instance, a child’s medication bottle may end up in the wrong container—one without a childproof cap. Or a child may have a similar name as another customer, and the pharmacy may mix up the patients and give a child an adult’s prescription. Any type of error involving a child’s medication can be life-threatening.
When prescription errors occur, children can end up in a coma, suffer respiratory arrest, or a number of minor to life-threatening injuries. If your child was harmed due to any type of pharmacy error, you may have rights to a medical malpractice claim. To learn about your rights, we welcome your call and will be happy to answer your questions in a free consultation. Or if you want some information before talking with us, please order a free copy of our book, A Patient’s Guide to Virginia Medical Negligence Law.