Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New UCSD Research Shows Deadly Drug Mistakes Spike At The Start Of Each Month, Suggests Pharmacy Errors

Date:
January 6, 2005
Source:
University Of California, San Diego
Summary:
Beware not the ides but the start of March – and April and May and every month. In the first few days of each month, fatalities due to medication errors rise by as much as 25 percent above normal, according to new research by University of California, San Diego sociologist David Phillips.

Total numbers of U.S. deaths related to medication errors ( 1.96 standard errors) on each of the first 14 days of the month (days 1 to 14) and the last 14 days of the preceding month (days -14 to -1), 1979-2000. The panel shows data for patients who were dead on arrival and for those who died in the emergency room and as outpatients. The horizontal solid line shows total numbers of deaths from all causes. The dotted line indicates the average number of deaths that would be expected if the numbers did not fluctuate around the first day of the month. The bar graph indicates the total number of deaths from fatal medication errors. The upper limit is set at 1.40 x daily average, whereas the lower limit is set at 0.85 x daily average. (Graphic courtesy of University Of California, San Diego)

Beware not the ides but the start of March – and April and May and every month. In the first few days of each month, fatalities due to medication errors rise by as much as 25 percent above normal, according to new research by University of California, San Diego sociologist David Phillips.

Published in the January issue of Pharmacotherapy, the journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, the study is the first to document a beginning-of-the-month spike in deaths attributed to mistakes in prescription drugs.

The primary suspect, Phillips says, is a beginning-of-the-month increase in pharmacy workloads and a consequent increase in their error rates.

“Government assistance payments to the old, the sick and the poor are typically received at the beginning of each month. Because of this, there is a beginning-of-the-month spike in purchases of prescription medicines,” Phillips says. “Pharmacy workloads go up and – in line with both evidence and experience – error rates go up as well. Our data suggest that the mortality spike occurs at least partly because of this phenomenon.”

Phillips and his coauthors examined all United States death certificates from 1979 through 2000 to analyze the 131,952 deaths classified as fatal poisoning accidents from drugs. A small number, 3.2 percent, of the deaths were from adverse effects of the right drug in the right dose. The vast majority, 96.8 percent, resulted from medication errors – the “wrong drug given or taken,” or “accidental overdose of drug,” or “drug taken inadvertently.”

The study excluded deaths from overdose of street drugs or from intentional poisoning (suicide or homicide).

The beginning-of-the-month mortality spike was particularly pronounced in people for whom the mistakes proved rapidly fatal – those who were dead on arrival at a hospital, died in the emergency department or as outpatients. In this category, deaths jumped by 25 percent above normal.

But could it be that the mortality spike is due not to pharmacy error but simply to the increased number of people buying, then consuming drugs?

To test this, Phillips and coauthors ran analyses on populations of the elderly and the poor. If increased consumption alone was to blame, the researchers reasoned, mortality would be highest in the groups relying on government assistance and therefore purchasing their medicines at the start of the month.

The beginning-of-the-month spike was similar across groups, however. The spike was as evident in the young and well-off as in the elderly and poor, suggesting the problem was at least partly due to an increase in pharmacy error at the beginning of the month.

Phillips notes that the National Center for Health Statistics database used in the study did not contain highly specific clinical information – no information on prescription type, dosage, days supply, etc. – and he urges further research with data richer in this kind of detail.

To reduce the medication-error death rate, Phillips suggests that pharmacies (that don’t already do so) consider increasing staffing levels at the beginning of the month and that government officials consider spreading assistance payments out over the entire month.

“Even in the absence of policy changes or further research,” Phillips says, “it is appropriate for both patients and clinical staff to be especially careful to check the accuracy of their prescriptions at the beginning of each month. If this is done, it seems plausible that some lives will be saved.”

Phillips’ coauthors are Jason R. Jarvinen, sociology student, UCSD, and Rosalie Phillips, executive director of the Tufts Health Care Center, Tufts University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California, San Diego. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California, San Diego. "New UCSD Research Shows Deadly Drug Mistakes Spike At The Start Of Each Month, Suggests Pharmacy Errors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050106111344.htm>.
University Of California, San Diego. (2005, January 6). New UCSD Research Shows Deadly Drug Mistakes Spike At The Start Of Each Month, Suggests Pharmacy Errors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050106111344.htm
University Of California, San Diego. "New UCSD Research Shows Deadly Drug Mistakes Spike At The Start Of Each Month, Suggests Pharmacy Errors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050106111344.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

AFP (Aug. 30, 2014) Authorities in Liberia try to stem the spread of the Ebola epidemic by raising awareness and setting up sanitation units for people to wash their hands. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) California lawmakers pass a bill requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on campuses. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins