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Translated Prescriptions Cause Medical Error

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that half of all automated Spanish versions of prescriptions have errors. They base this on a study that found that pharmacies that print prescription labels that translate into Spanish oftentimes have inaccurate or confusing instructions. These prescription errors can be potentially hazardous to a patient’s health. These researchers looked at over 70 medicine labels to come to the conclusion that the margin of error on translated prescriptions is 50 percent.

One example is that an anemic patient was placed on iron supplements. It was discovered after the patient had no improved iron levels that he had only been taking one drop of the supplement instead of the amount the doctor had prescribed. The patient was not taking the right amount because he was confused by the prescription instructions. One common problem in translated prescriptions is that once in Spanish means eleven. It can cause great problems when a prescription says take once a day, and a patient takes 11. Another problem is that English prescription instructions are not standardized. Since the same instructions can be written in multiple ways, it is difficult to translate every word to match the doctor’s wishes. These medical errors take place in Chicago pharmacies and hospitals throughout the city’s Spanish speaking neighborhoods.

These problems highlight why doctors and pharmacists need to go over all instructions with their patient’s to explain to them what doses and drugs need to be ingested. To read more about the medical error study, please click the link.