Thursday, January 06, 2005

How About Malpractice Reform?

University of California, San Diego is out with a new study today that shows "deadly drug mistakes spike at the start of each month" -- and this suggests human errors at the Pharmacy:

"Beware not the ides but the start of March – and April and May and every month. In the first few days of each month, fatalities due to medication errors rise by as much as 25 percent above normal, according to new research by University of California, San Diego sociologist David Phillips.

Published in the January issue of Pharmacotherapy, the journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, the study is the first to document a beginning-of-the-month spike in deaths attributed to mistakes in prescription drugs.

The primary suspect, Phillips says, is a beginning-of-the-month increase in pharmacy workloads and a consequent increase in their error rates.

click for larger graphic


“Government assistance payments to the old, the sick and the poor are typically received at the beginning of each month. Because of this, there is a beginning-of-the-month spike in purchases of prescription medicines,” Phillips says. “Pharmacy workloads go up and – in line with both evidence and experience – error rates go up as well. Our data suggest that the mortality spike occurs at least partly because of this phenomenon.”

Phillips and his coauthors examined all United States death certificates from 1979 through 2000 to analyze the 131,952 deaths classified as fatal poisoning accidents from drugs. A small number, 3.2 percent, of the deaths were from adverse effects of the right drug in the right dose. The vast majority, 96.8 percent, resulted from medication errors – the “wrong drug given or taken,” or “accidental overdose of drug,” or “drug taken inadvertently

So much for desperate need for tort reform; What's really needed is less malpractice . . .

New UCSD Research Shows Deadly Drug Mistakes Spike At The Start Of Each Month, Suggests Pharmacy Errors
January 5, 2005
By Inga Kiderra

Posted at 03:54 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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What's the scale on that chart? I have to say I find it quite irresponsible statistical practice to present the data in standardised form. It's visible from the spike that the beginning-of-month effect is statistically significant, but is it practically significant? Are we talking about the difference between 3 and 4, or the difference between 300 and 400?

Posted by: dsquared | Jan 7, 2005 2:49:07 AM

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