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Over-the-counter and prescription medication errors are harmful

Medication errors are more common than what people might think. These errors can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as confusing dosages and confusing drugs that have similar names. Medication errors can also be caused by poor communication, poor handwriting on a written prescription or poor drug packaging. Regardless of the underlying cause of the medication error, these errors can be very harmful. The harm isn't limited only to instances involving prescription drugs. Over-the-counter drugs can also harm patients.

The drug acetaminophen is one that is available in both OTC and prescription forms. Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage. This means that doctors must be cautious when they prescribe a medication with acetaminophen, especially if the patient is already taking an OTC version of the product. Pharmacists should also alert patients of the presence of acetaminophen in prescription products so the patients can monitor their intake.

Cough medications are another instance in which patients and doctors must be very cautious, especially when children are the ones taking the medications. Over-the-counter cough and cold medication overdoses lead to around 7,000 emergency visits each year for patients 11 and younger. In most of those cases, the reason is that the children took the medication without parental permission.

Children aren't the only ones who are affected by cough syrup overdoses. Cough syrups containing hydrocodone, such as Tussionex Pennkinetic Extended-Release Suspension is a long-acting cough syrup that has to be taken every 12 hours. Taking an incorrect dose or too many doses in a day can lead to potentially fatal overdoses.

These are only a small sampling that show OTC and prescription medications can lead to health concerns if they aren't taken properly. If you were harmed by a medication error caused by medical negligence, you might decide to seek compensation to help cover the costs of the treatment you needed for the health concern caused by the medication error.

Source: United States Food and Drug Administration, "Avoiding Medication Mistakes," accessed Sep. 12, 2015

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