40% of Medication-Related Liability Claims Involve Opioids, Anticoagulants

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Jan 20,2018

Close to 40% of all medication error-related liability claims that were analyzed as part of a recent study involved opioids and anticoagulants.

Opioids were found to be involved in more liability claims involving medication errors than any other drug, accounting for 24% of all liability claims. Anticoagulants followed at a close second with 16% of all claims involving medications. According to the report, 42% of medication errors occurred in a clinical setting, while 30% of these errors ultimately resulted in a patient fatality.

In the study, researchers analyzed more than 10,000 liability claims filed against medical liability insurance companies between 2000 and 2016. Overall, they found that medical malpractice claims related to medication errors were the fourth leading cause of claims. The other three leading causes were diagnosis-related errors, surgery errors, and errors involved in medical management. Rounding off the top five root causes of medical liability claims were obstetrics-related claims.

About 46% of medical liability claims involving opioids involved primary care providers, while 20% involved emergency departments of operating rooms.

There are several key points that health care providers can use to reduce the risk of errors and avoid liability. The risk of medication errors seems to be the highest when the patient is young, old, small or heavy; because such patients’ medication requirements must be followed precisely. As a patient, this knowledge can be quite helpful. Extra precautions should be taken by the patient and family to ensure the necessary safeguards are in place to protect you or your loved one.

The report also finds that the first and last stages of a medication program are much more likely to involve errors. The first step is the ordering process and was linked to 35% of claims, with 29% of claims naming ordering as the root cause resulting in indemnity payments. The ordering process can include safety issues like the prescription of unsafe or age-inappropriate medications for children. The last stage – monitoring and management – was linked to 31% of all claims, and according to the report, 36% of these claims ended in indemnity being paid. Interestingly enough, the second step in the medication process – dispensing – was only linked to 3% of all claims and only 2% of these claims resulted in indemnity being paid.

The researchers believe that the reduced risk at the dispensing stage is linked to the use of better technologies to minimize inaccuracies.  The study also finds that bottom-down support for interventions designed to reduce the risk of medication errors is essential in order to guarantee their success. Most importantly, the report underlines the additional care that must be taken while prescribing opioids and anticoagulants, some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the country.

The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller represent persons who have suffered injuries as a result of medical negligence across Indiana. If your loved one has suffered injuries as a result of a medication error, talk to a lawyer at our firm today.