New Jersey patients rely on technology and a chain of professionals to accurately get their prescription medications to them, and mistakes can sometimes occur. It is common for mistakes to be made that are dosages that are off by factors of ten. This is such a common problem that an article suggests that the FDA and pharmaceutical companies avoid marketing dosage strengths that differ by a factor of ten and says that safer writing or typing practices could also help.
Cases reported in which 10-fold overdoses of medication were dispensed to patients include overdoses of the psychotropic medication Abilify and the opioid pain management drug Belbuca. A 2-year-old child was given 20 mg of Abilify instead of the 2 mg that was prescribed. The child took 68 doses of 20 mg and became withdrawn, irritable and ‘in a zombie-like state” according to the report. Another reported error involved a woman who was given 750 micrograms of Belbuca instead of her doctor’s intended dosage of 75 mcg. She took five doses before the mistake was discovered.
Zeros can be a cause of mistakes, either when a trailing zero is used, for example, 10.0 mg instead of 10 mg, or when leading zeros are not used, such as .15 mg instead of 0.15 mg. Pharmacies are often blamed whenever medication dosage errors are made, but these types of errors could be avoided if drug manufacturers adopted safer practices when labeling and marketing their product.
Medication errors can cause problems ranging from minor problems like lethargy to serious consequences including death. Even something minor like sleepiness can become life-threatening when someone is driving or operating machinery. Medical professionals carry malpractice insurance, and they usually have attorneys to defend them against charges of negligence. People who have been harmed by such a mistake might find it advisable to have legal counsel as well when seeking compensation for their losses.