Medication errors—an enduring problem for children and elderly patients

  • Sergey Zakharov
  • Navratil Tomas
  • Daniela Pelclova


Objective. To analyze the types and reasons of medication errors, committed by health care professionals, which led to toxicological consultations at the Czech Toxicological Information Centre (TIC).

Methods. Inquiries arising from medication errors for 2000–2010 were extracted and evaluated from the database of the TIC, recording the consultations of poisonings due to drugs, household products, plants, and mushrooms.

Results. From a total of 44,344 calls concerning pharmaceuticals, 215 (0.5%) were denoted by the caller as medication errors; 130 involved children (90 below 5 years of age) and 85 involved adults (30–60 years of age). The most common errors were: improper dosage (60.9%), wrong medication (19.3%), or erroneous route of administration (12.9%). The most frequent medication errors appeared using drugs affecting the nervous system (psycholeptics and antiepileptics), antibiotics, and drugs affecting the respiratory system. Nurses administering the drugs were responsible for 43.0%, physicians prescribing the drugs for 36.8%, and pharmacists dispensing the drugs for 20.2% of the errors. Of 25 patients with severe drug intoxications, 60.0% were children under 5 years of age treated with pharmaceuticals affecting the CNS, and 28.0% patients over 60 years of age with chronic application of theophylline, digoxin, or lithium.

Conclusions. The trend in medication errors has remained relatively stable over the past 11 years. The analysis of medication errors shows two high-risk categories: children of less than 5 years of age, in whom the dose was not correctly adjusted, and elderly people with chronic medication and insufficient control of their medication level. Therefore, the measures for risk reduction should focus primarily on them.


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How to Cite
Zakharov S., Tomas N., & Pelclova D. (2012). Medication errors—an enduring problem for children and elderly patients. Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, 117(3).
Original Articles