101 South Washington Street, Rockville, Maryland 20850

High-Alert Medication Mistakes

Almost any medication can be dangerous if given to the wrong patient, or in the wrong quantity. That said, medical professionals have a name for a collection of pharmaceuticals that carry the greatest risk of harm when administered in an incorrect amount or manner—“high-alert medications.” The name serves as a reminder for doctors and nurses to take even greater care when administering one of the drugs, as even slight errors in their administration could have serious or fatal consequences. Read on to learn about the drugs that earn the label of high-alert medications, and contact a Maryland medical malpractice attorney if you have questions.

Medical professionals must always be cautious in administering medications in hospitals. Patients’ conditions could change quickly, resulting in the patient’s dosage needs changing, or the patient may already be taking medications that could interact harmfully with the standard medication used to treat their condition. Doctors and nurses always have a duty to exercise care and attention when administering medication, but the potential to harm a patient with an improper medication is greatest when issuing high-alert medications. Commonly-issued high-alert medicines include:

Insulin: Diabetics are unable to regulate their own blood sugar naturally, and so must have insulin administered to them to prevent fatal injuries. Insulin must be issued in extremely precise quantities to prevent insulin overdose or hypoglycemia. Hospitals often keep many types of insulin pens and syringes on hand, each of which issues insulin in different dosages, and if nurses or doctors are not careful, they could accidentally administer the wrong amount of the drug to patients. Additionally, many types of insulin come in different strengths, but are labeled similarly, easily resulting in error if nurses or doctors are not careful.

Anticoagulants: These drugs are designed to prevent blood clots from forming in patients who are at risk of suffering a stroke or embolism. These drugs can be dangerous if issued in the wrong quantity. Also, if medical professionals forget to restart anticoagulants after a patient has surgery, the patient stands at risk of developing dangerous blood clots.

Opioids: While often effective, these powerful pain killers can have dangerous effects if patients are not carefully monitored while taking them. Often, patients are permitted to administer their own pain medication through patient-controlled analgesia pumps, but if doctors use the incorrect formulation of the drug, or fail to monitor patients using these pumps, the patients can suffer serious harm.

If you or a loved one have suffered harm as the result of a medication mistake, find out if you may be owed money damages by contacting the effective and seasoned Rockville medical malpractice lawyers at Brault Graham LLP for a consultation, at 301-424-1060.