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Drug errors pervasive -- study

WASHINGTON, June 22 (UPI) -- A new study at Johns Hopkins Children's Center shows that errors occurred at all points in the medication process.

But the authors added that careful monitoring could correct the problem.

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Researchers Marlene Miller and Christoph Lehmann led the research team, which analyzed 19 months of data from a voluntary error-reporting system in use at the center from 2001 to 2004.

They found that errors occurred in all steps of the medication process. One-third were prescribing errors, one-quarter were dispensing errors, 38 percent were administration errors, and 8 percent were documentation errors.

The team also saw that half of all errors occurred in children under six.

Breaking the data out by drug type, the researchers noted that 17 percent of the errors occurred with antibiotics or anti-virals, 15 percent with pain relievers and sedatives, 15 percent with antihistamines, 11 percent with nutritional supplements, 8 percent with gastrointestinal medications, 7 percent with cardiovascular medications, and 6 percent with hormonal medications.

In response to those findings, the center has created several programs to reduce and prevent such errors, including a computerized ordering tool for pediatric chemotherapy, an online infusion calculator for IV infusions, and an online total parenteral nutrition calculator for premature babies.

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"Error reporting is only as good as the actual changes that are made as a result of it," Lehmann said.

The study can be found in the June issue of Quality & Safety in Healthcare.

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