Group highlights risk of medication errors with potent chemotherapy drug

Medication errors are one of the many types of mistakes that can occur in the delivery of health care. In many cases, medication errors have no significant consequence. In some cases, the consequences can be fatal. According to a study conducted earlier this year, ten percent of all deaths in the United States are due to medical errors, and medication errors are the third most common type of medical error.

Fatal medication errors are more likely to occur the more powerful the medication being administered. The risk of fatality is higher, for example, with powerful chemotherapy drugs, and health care providers have the duty to take precautions to avoid errors with these potent drugs. 

Recently, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network initiated a campaign aimed at advocating safer handling vincristine, a chemotherapy drug often used to treat leukemia and lymphoma. The drug is administered intravenously. One of the risks, though, is that patients may accidentally receive the drug intrathecally, having it injected into their spinal fluid by syringe. If this happens, the patient experiences paralysis, neurological defects and eventually dies.

That being said, the incidence of such errors is low—there are 125 known cases since the drug began to be used in the 1960s. Still, the risk is worth addressing. It also highlights the importance of health care providers generally exercising caution in handling powerful medications. When accidents do occur, injured patients have the right to seek compensation. Working with a committed, experienced attorney ensures their interests will be well-represented.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.,” May 3, 2016. 

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