Preventable medical errors persist as the No. 3 killer in the U.S.- third only to heart disease and cancer- claiming the lives of some 400,000 people each year, more than 1,000 people each day.1

The average hospitalized patient is subject to at least one medication error per day.2

Preventable medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people every year.3

Dosing errors make up 37 percent of all preventable medication errors.4

Confusion caused by similar drug names accounts for up to 25 percent of all errors reported to the Medication Error Reporting Program operated cooperatively by U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP). In addition, labeling and packaging issues were cited as the cause of 33 percent of errors, including 30 percent of fatalities, reported to the program.5

ADE rates are generally the highest among children up to age 5 and among adults older than 60. Older adult patients account for 49% of annual ADEs that result in hospitalizations, while children had a higher annual incidence of ADEs of all types.6

In emergency departments, leading causes for medication errors are not following procedures and protocols and poor communication, with contributing factors of distractions, emergency situations, and workload levels.7

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated reports received of fatal medication errors and found that the most common types of errors involved the administration of an improper dose (41 percent), administering the wrong drug (16 percent), and using the wrong route of administration (16 percent), with injectable drugs raising the most problems.8

1 McCann, Erin, “Deaths by Medical Mistakes Hit Records”,,
2 “Summary” . Preventing Medication Errors: Quality Chasm Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.
3 Bates DW, Spell N, Cullen DJ, et al. The costs of adverse drug events in hospitalized patients. JAMA. 1997;277:307–11.
4 Bobb, A., Gleason, K., Husch, M., et al. (2004). The epidemiology of prescribing errors. Arch Intern Med, 164(7), 785-792.
5 Aspden, Philip, Wolcott, Julie, “Preventing Medication Errors”.
6 Mendelsohn, A. B., Schroeder, T. J., Annest, J. L. (2006). National surveillance of emergency department visits for outpatient adverse drug events. Journal of the American Medical.
7 Pham, J. C., Story, J. L., Hicks, R. W., et al. (2011). National study on the frequency, types, causes, and consequences of voluntarily reported emergency department medication errors. Journal of Emergency Medicine, 40(5), 485-492. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.02.059
8 “Strategies to Reduce Medication Errors: Working to Improve Medication Safety”.

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