Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Doctors often poorly educated about drugs administered

Many doctors' errors in administering certain medications come about because of the doctor's inadequate understanding of the drug itself. A demonstration in southern Pennsylvania concerning the use of a drug called Hydromorphone illustrated the problem with medication errors.

Hydromorphone is a morphine derivative used to manage pain. But since it is a derivative of morphine, doctors often mistakenly prescribe Hydromorphone in the same manner as if they were administering morphine. This has resulted in a number of required rapid response calls or use of rescue agents in order to revive patients that suffered an adverse response because of the wrong dosage being administered.

The demonstration in southern Pennsylvania did lessen the number of patients who required rapid response calls because of adverse reactions, but the number of adverse reactions did not in themselves decrease. Nearly 1,700 errors had been recorded concerning errors in prescribing Hydromorphone in a little under 2-year period. In the past decade, there have been 251 reported deaths. Obviously, such mistakes in administration of the medicine can be catastrophic.

Education of doctors probably will not eliminate this problem, but it at least will put doctors on notice that they need to take more care in the administration of drugs. Surprisingly, it's been pharmacists rather than doctors that have been catching the mistakes concerning the prescribing of this medicine -and this circumstance cannot be considered acceptable. This may be in part that pharmacists have a greater knowledge of the medications than the doctors who are prescribing them.

If doctors choose not to educate themselves concerning the medications but keep administering these drugs in any case, they should then be held accountable in the courts.

Source: Pharmacy Practice News, "Demonstration Project Cuts Some Risk From Hydromorphone Use," by Ted Agres, Jan. 2012

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