Errors in use of antibiotics, blood thinners among most common leading to death

Medication administration errors that lead to patient deaths are particularly common with antibiotics and blood thinners, according to research published in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.

The researchers collected data from the National Reporting and Learning System for England and Wales, where medication administration errors were reported between 2007 and 2016. During this time, healthcare professionals reported 517,384 medication administration errors in the system. The researchers assessed incidents that resulted in death (229 cases).

Five study insights:

1. Medication incidents resulting in death were most often reported in hospital wards (66 percent) and in patients over age 75. 

2. The drug groups most commonly linked to administration errors were cardiovascular drugs, drugs that affect the nervous system and drugs for treating infections.

3. On the other hand, the individual drugs most often linked to administration errors were antibiotics, injectable anticoagulants and analgesics.

4. Almost one-third of the administration errors involved omitted medicine. The next most common error categories involved the wrong dose or wrong strength of a medicine.

5. "Our findings show that more attention should be paid to the safe administration of medication, especially when it comes to older people. It is important to make sure that the patient gets the right dose of medication at the right time and in the right way," said lead study author Marja Härkänen, PhD.

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