Errors are a legitimate concern for anyone taking medication. Whether it is happening at home through a prescription or during a visit to a medical facility, the risk is real. Mistakes can lead to serious complications, including the possibility of a long-term injury or even death.

Just how big of a problem is this?

In order to help fully demonstrate the scope of this issue, we looked to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides some pretty staggering numbers about medication errors and subsequent adverse drug events.

  1. There are more than 10,000 prescription medications out there and available for clinicians to consider
  2. About 30% of American adults take five or more medications
  3. Adverse drug events account for about 700,000 ER visits every year
  4. They also account for about 100,000 hospitalizations annually
  5. About 5% of all hospital patients experience an adverse drug event , a rate that makes it one of the most common types of inpatient errors

What causes medication errors?

The widespread use of medications coupled with the sheer number of drugs available already opens the door for potential errors, particularly when it comes to dangerous combinations. There are other factors at play. The most common causes of medication errors, according to the Mayo Clinic, are:

  • Poor communication between doctors
  • Insufficient communication between you and your doctors
  • Drug mix-ups – names that sound alike or medications that look alike
  • Medical abbreviations

Simply put, adverse drug events are considered one of the most common, preventable types of adverse events throughout all settings of care, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says. Doctors, pharmacists and other health care professionals have a responsibility to avoid these types of mistakes that can put you in harm’s way.