NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

BITTER PILLS CAN KILL

January 18, 2005

Prescriptions filled at the first of the month can be fatal, according to a new study published by the journal Pharmacotherapy. Researchers found that deaths associated with prescription errors are as much as 25 percent higher during the first few days of the month.

Researchers studied U.S. death certificates from 1979 through 2000. Of the 131,952 deaths relating to fatal drug poisoning accidents, researchers found:

  • Some 96.8 percent of the deaths resulted from prescription errors and included the wrong drug being given or the correct drug being provided but with an incorrect dosage.
  • Only 3.2 percent of the deaths resulted from adverse effects of a drug that was correctly filled.
  • Deaths related to overdoses from street drugs, suicides and murders were not included in the study.

The study also examined the correlation between medication error rates and pharmacists' workloads. Researchers suspect that more prescriptions requests are received by pharmacists in the first few days of the month because most people receive their payments from Social Security, welfare and other government-assistance programs at that time.

Source: Lori Rackl, "Rx refill errors deadliest at beginning of month," Chicago Sun-Times, January 7, 2005.

 

Browse more articles on Health Issues