The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention classifies a medication error as a preventable event that creates adverse effects or inappropriate use. U.S. consumers report more than 1 million such errors to the Food and Drug Administration every year. 

Review the facts about medication errors and seek assistance if you or a family member experiences unexplained health effects after taking a new drug. 

Complications of medication errors

Some medication errors result in only minor health effects. Other errors can be catastrophic for the affected patient. The FDA reports that adverse complications of a prescription drug error could include: 

  • Birth defects 
  • Illness requiring hospitalization 
  • Disabling or life-threatening illness 
  • Fatality 

Preventive steps

Consumers can use awareness to detect some medication errors. Know the names of your prescriptions and be sure to understand why you take each drug. Familiarize yourself with the dosage and ask your doctor if you have any questions about the medications you take. Check the label every time you take the medication and make sure the name and dosage are correct. You should also recognize the size, shape and color of pills. 

If you help care for an older family member, go with him or her to medical appointments. Set medication reminders and keep careful note of each prescription, especially for loved ones who take several different drugs. 

You may have legal recourse if you become ill after taking prescription medication. See your doctor right away if you experience unwanted side effects. In Massachusetts, you have three years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if you experience financial damages caused by a medication error.