Every year, up to 40,000 people around the country die as a result of the side effects from the medications they take. To combat the issue, the federal Food and Drug Administration has been gathering information from patients in North Carolina and elsewhere who have had bad experiences after taking prescribed drugs. However, an evaluation of the data indicates that the information is unusable.
The Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System receives reports regarding the side effects of drugs. The database is not limited to medical personnel, as it can be used by anyone. Researchers who want to gain a better understanding of the side effects of drugs and how to reduce the adverse effects access the database because it is constantly updated with new information. However, when one team of researchers tried to use the database to conduct a study, it discovered that the data was faulty.
Researchers at Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research noted multiple issues with the data. There were several instances of reports being submitted multiple times. There were also cases in which the listed side effect was actually the disease that was being treated. Another issue the researchers found was that the database did not allow for the fact that a single drug could be referred to under multiple names, including chemical names and brand names. In order to obtain a look at all of the potential side effects of a drug, it was necessary to make queries using all of a drug's synonyms, which in some instances involved hundreds of names.
Medication errors can be a form of medical malpractice if a patient is harmed as a result. It will have to be demonstrated that the mistake constituted a failure by a health care professional to exhibit the requisite standard of care. This could be the practitioner who prescribed a wrong dosage of medication or a pharmacist who filled the prescription in error.