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What are the types of medication errors?

The medical community recognizes nine distinct classifications for errors involving medication and ranks them in order from least to most harmful to patients.

At any given time, a person in New York might require a prescription or even over-the-counter medication. In some situations, more than one drug may be needed and may even include a combination of prescription and non-prescription medications. Supplements may also be included in medication prescribing by medical professionals.

Designed to help, drugs may be linked to new problems

While the use of different drugs is generally intended to help a problem, there are times when it may actually cause a problem. This may happen if an error is made. Medication errors may occur at many steps in the process from a prescription being written incorrectly to the pharmacist misreading a physician's handwriting to the drug being administered incorrectly and beyond.

A study by the Food and Drug Administration indicated that giving an incorrect dose of a drug, giving a patient the wrong drug or administering a drug in the wrong way are three of the most common types of errors.

Understanding how drug mistakes are classified can be important for New Yorkers who may be impacted by these potentially serious errors.

Classification of drug errors

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality explains that within the medical community, there is a tiered approach to classifying medication errors. The least serious type is labelled as a class A error and involves a situation in which no actual error occurred but in which an error might be able to occur. In a class B drug error , a mistake has happened but a patient was not affected in any way.

Starting with class C errors all the way through class I errors, patients have been impacted by mistakes. Class C mistakes reached patients but no injury was likely to have come from it. In a class D error, some action even in the form of monitoring may have been needed in order to prevent injury to the patient.

Temporary harm to a patient is associated with class E and F errors. In class F errors, that injury is linked to extended or new hospitalization for the patient. Class G mistakes are linked to the potential for permanent injury and with a class H error action is required to keep a person alive. Class I errors, the most serious, are associated with the potential to result in death.

Patient proactivity is urged

WebMD explains that patients should always be proactive in asking providers questions about medications and even keeping their own very detailed records about what drugs they take, for when, when and how often. It can also be helpful to identify a family member or other person to be aware of needed drugs in case a patient is unable to advocate for themself.

If an error does happen or is suspected, talking to an attorney is a recommended step for anyone in New York. This can provide important details about the laws regarding medical errors and how to be safe and seek compensation.