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Pharmaceutical error rates vary with workload

Ohio patients should be aware of a 2015 study that indicates a rise in the number of pharmaceutical errors as the workload for pharmacists increases. Pharmacists at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston and the University of Houston College of Pharmacy analyzed inpatient and outpatient pharmaceutical errors that were reported in 2011 and 2012 at a large Houston medical center. More than 1.9 million medication orders were managed by only 50 pharmacists, resulting in 92 medication order verification errors.

The Houston researchers found that errors increased with the number of orders verified on each pharmacist's shift. More than 400 order verifications per shift were associated with the highest risk, with an overall error rate of 4.87 per 100,000 orders. Out of the 50 pharmacists involved, 31 committed at least one medication error over the course of the year. Those who had worked for a longer period of time tended to have a lower rate of error, but researchers found that those results were not statistically significant.

Some medications were more likely to result in an error report, according to the study. The pneumococcal vaccine had a 13 percent error rate for duplicate order while the piperacillin/tazobactam 3.375 g vial had a 4 percent error rate for patient allergy or administration of the wrong dose. Additional studies are needed to provide support for the research and present a maximum number of orders per hour that results in acceptably safe practices.

Patients who have been injured or had a condition made worse as a result of a pharmacist's error may want to meet with an attorney to discuss the advisability of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Compensation that is sought may include medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering sustained as a result of the medication error.

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