Medication error definition

A medication error can be described as a mistake that happens with a medication. Examples include wrong dose, wrong person, or missing a known allergy to the medication.

What is a medication error?

A medication error can be simply described as a mistake that happens with a medication. Examples include wrong dose, wrong person, or missing a known allergy to the medication.

Medication errors include obvious things like receiving or using the wrong medication but might also include problems like a confusing label. Medication errors can involve prescription and non-prescription medications, natural health products, and devices or equipment used for medications.

Medication mistakes happen in hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies and even at home.

Although most med errors don’t cause harm, some result in serious harm or death. Often, mistakes with medication are caused by underlying problems – it could be unclear handwriting on your prescription, or the label on your pill bottle might be confusing.

A medication error is sometimes also called a medication incident.

What errors should be reported?

Any medication errors involving prescription and non-prescription medications, natural health products, and devices or equipment used for medications can be reported.

Any medication problem that happened to you or to someone you know, can be reported. If you are reporting on behalf of someone else, ask their permission to report the error and find out as much information as possible about the error.

If you are unsure if the medication-related problem is an error or a reaction, you can still send in a Medication Error Report on this website and someone from ISMP Canada will review your report and make sure it goes to the right place.