Adverse drug reactions in California: What you should know

Medication errors – which are all too common and completely preventable – could cause very serious adverse reactions in Californians.

The effects of a medication error in California may range from small side effects, such as nausea, to life-altering events including chronic conditions and even fatalities. These mistakes often happen at the hands of the people that patients trust: medical professionals. Even worse, drug errors are largely preventable. Here, we take a look at the basic information people should know when being prescribed a drug.

How common are adverse drug reactions?

It is hard to pin down exactly how often someone has an adverse drug reaction, because not everyone reports the phenomenon. However, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides us with a glimpse of how serious the issue is: Approximately 100,000 hospitalizations every year are due to a reaction to a medication, and about 700,000 trips to the emergency room are linked to such events.

How do these reactions occur?

Essentially, anyone could have a reaction to a medication because it involves putting something into the body that the body may not be used to. However, one common reason people have a reaction is because they are allergic to the substance.

Unfortunately, it happens all too often that a mistake is the reason for the adverse event. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, at least one death every day occurs solely due to a medication error.

Mistakes involving medications could involve the following:

· Giving a patient the wrong drug

· Administering the wrong dosage

· Poor packaging or instructions on the medication

· Failing to read a patient's allergy information before prescribing a drug

· Ignoring how two or more drugs may react to each other

The above highlight the events that should never take place. The AHRQ estimates that roughly half of adverse drug reactions are preventable.

Who is at risk?

Although anyone could have an adverse reaction to a drug, there are certain patients who may be more at risk. People who take more than one medication are at an increased risk of a reaction because of the way those drugs could interact. Children are also especially susceptible because of the way their medicine is often prescribed. Typically, medicine for a child takes into account his or her weight. This would require medical professionals to have an accurate weight, which does not always happen.

How can I prevent an adverse reaction?

Medical professionals have a responsibility for their patient's safety. They should be double- and triple-checking information such as drug names, the patient's medical history and the dosage amounts before administering or prescribing a medication.

There are a few measures patients themselves may take. Asking questions about potential side effects and the drug's time on the market may help. Additionally, patients should be transparent about all medications they are on and any allergies they may have. Before taking any drug, patients should have a clear understanding of how to take it: with food, at what time of day and so forth.

If an adverse reaction occurs due to the negligence of a physician or medical professional, patients in California have the right to pursue legal remedy. Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in California.