Medication Errors in Nursing Homes Are Preventable
Nursing homes have a legal duty to ensure that residents are free of any significant medication error. Yet, medication errors are one of the most common forms of preventable neglect found in nursing homes and other care facilities. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website provides several valuable resources on how to prevent medication errors:
According to the Center for Disease Control, CDC:
Adverse drug events (ADEs) are a serious public health problem. It is estimated that:
- 82% of American adults take at least one medication and 29% take five or more 
- 700,000 emergency department visits and 120,000 hospitalizations are due to ADEs annually :
- $3.5 billion is spent on extra medical costs of ADEs annually ;
- At least 40% of costs of ambulatory (non-hospital settings) ADEs are estimated to be preventable 
The numbers of adverse drug events will likely grow due to:
- Development of new medications
- Discovery of new uses for older medications
- Aging American population
- Increase in the use of medications for disease prevention
- Increased coverage for prescription medications
Medication Errors FDA – Medication Guides, Medication Guides are paper handouts that come with many prescription medicines. The guides address issues that are specific to particular drugs and drug classes, and they contain FDA-approved information that can help patients avoid serious adverse events. FDA requires that Medication Guides be issued with certain prescribed drugs and biological products when the Agency determines that:
- certain information is necessary to prevent serious adverse effects
- patient decision-making should be informed by information about a known serious side effect with a product, or
- patient adherence to directions for the use of a product are essential to its effectiveness.
Federal Regulations Pertaining to the Prevention of Nursing Home Medication Errors
FDA Drug Info Rounds – Medication Errors
Guidance for Industry – Safety Considerations for Product Design to Minimize Medication Errors
Federal Regulations establish guidelines on medication errors and measures which must be followed to reduce the likelihood of errors – 42 CFR 483. Nursing Home Regulations
(l) Unnecessary drugs —(1) General. Each resident’s drug regimen must be free from unnecessary drugs. An unnecessary drug is any drug when used:
(i) In excessive dose (including duplicate drug therapy); or
(ii) For excessive duration; or
(iii) Without adequate monitoring; or
(iv) Without adequate indications for its use; or
(v) In the presence of adverse consequences which indicate the dose should be reduced or discontinued; or
(vi) Any combinations of the reasons above.
(2) Antipsychotic Drugs. Based on a comprehensive assessment of a resident, the facility must ensure that—
(i) Residents who have not used antipsychotic drugs are not given these drugs unless antipsychotic drug therapy is necessary to treat a specific condition as diagnosed and documented in the clinical record; and
(ii) Residents who use antipsychotic drugs receive gradual dose reductions, and behavioral interventions, unless clinically contraindicated, in an effort to discontinue these drugs.
(m) Medication Errors. The facility must ensure that—
(1) It is free of medication error rates of five percent or greater; and
(2) Residents are free of any significant medication errors.
Medication Theft is also a Preventable Medication Error
In addition to the medication errors based on necessity, dosage, and other mistakes, it is a crime and serious neglect for employees of the nursing homes or other care facilities to steal the medications intended for the resident. These medications are usually narcotic pain medications stolen by the staff to either resell on the black market to take themselves.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a medication overdose, given contraindicated or unnecessary drugs or wrong medication, or some other form of medication error, contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney for a free consultation. Attorney Kenneth L. LaBore can be reached by phone at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589, and by email at KLaBore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com.