Medical errors kill 2,500 in the Kingdom every year

Medical errors kill 2,500 in the Kingdom every year

Nimr Fehaid Al-Sabilah

Nimr Fehaid Al-Sabilah


PRESCRIBING the wrong medicine for a patient or preparing the medication incorrectly can be fatal. Examples of such errors include the improper administration of doses.

Another example is prescribing a different medicine to the one written in the prescription. For instance, the doctor might prescribe a certain syrup but the pharmacist may give the same medicine as a pill. This could have severe side effects.

Another common error related to medicines is the way certain medications interact with other medications. A doctor might prescribe something for the patient, which then has a side effect because the patient is taking another drug at the same time. This happens when the doctor fails to ask about the patient’s medical history. Some blood pressure pills do not interact well with certain diabetes medications.

Some patients misuse medication because the doctor or pharmacist has not explained the correct procedure for using it. Our hospitals do not have enough pharmacists and this results in misinforming the patient on the right way to use medicines. Current studies recommend that a pharmacist should dispense medications to 12 patients a day to minimize errors by 90 percent.

Unfortunately, we do not have statistics for the errors made by pharmacists because the concerned authorities do not know the actual number of such errors. As a result, it is difficult to design efficient solutions for this problem without accurate statistics. Global reports indicate that 1.5 million people die every year because of errors made by pharmacists.

We have a couple of studies that were conducted in university hospitals but their results are unreliable. The first indicates that the percentage of errors committed by nurses is 35 percent, pharmacists 9 percent, doctors 2 percent and other healthcare professionals 1 percent. The second shows that 5,574 patients were hospitalized due to pharmacists’ errors. The patients stayed in the hospital between a week and three months. These errors increase the financial burden on the Ministry of Health because it has to cover the costs of treating these patients.