In a new study Nationwide Children’s Hospital researchers examined out-of-hospital medication errors among young children in the United States.
The research team used from the National Poison Database System, a retrospective analysis of out-of-hospital medication errors among children under six years old from 2002 through 2012.
During 2002–2012, 696,937 children under six years experienced out-of-hospital medication errors, averaging 63,358 episodes per year, or one child every eight minutes. The average annual rate of medication errors was 26.42 per 10 000 population.
According to Dr. Huiyun Xiang, MD, MPH, PhD, director of the Center for Pediatric Trauma Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, principal investigator at the hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy, “This is more common than people may realize.” “The numbers we report still underestimate the true magnitude of these incidents since these are just cases reported to national poison centers.”
Cough and cold medication errors decreased significantly however; there was a 42.9% increase and 37.2% increase rate of all other medication errors that rose significantly during the study period.
The number and rate of medication error events decreased with increasing child age. Children under one year accounted for 25.2% of episodes.
The most commonly involved medication errors were analgesics at 25.2% followed by cough and cold preparations; at 24.6%.
Ingestion accounted for 96.2% of events, and 27.0% of medication errors were attributed to inadvertently taking or being given medication twice.
Most of the cases (93.5%) were managed outside of a health care facility; 4.4% were treated and released from a health care facility; 0.4% was admitted to a non–critical care unit; 0.3% was admitted to a critical care unit; and 25 children died.
According to Henry Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center and co-author of the study “There are public health strategies being used to decrease the frequency and severity of medication errors among young children.” “Product packaging needs to be redesigned in a way that provides accurate dosing devices and instructions, and better labeling to increase visibility to parents.”
“This is the first comprehensive study to evaluate the epidemiologic characteristics of out-of-hospital medication errors among children <6 years of age on a national level. Increased efforts are needed to prevent medication errors, especially those involving non–cough and cold preparations, among young children,” write the researchers.