By some estimates, between 7,000 and 9,000 Americans die every year from a prescription drug error, with thousands more seriously injured. Doctors and pharmacists are trusted to accurately prescribe, dispense, and advise patients on medications. When they don’t, people get hurt.
Prescription drug mistakes are avoidable, and they demand accountability. The medical malpractice attorneys of Cooper Schall & Levy make that happen by fighting for the compensation that injured patients deserve. Give us a call if you or a loved one were hurt by a medication error.
Common Medication Errors
Patients injured by prescription drugs report a variety of mistakes, including the following:
- Not considering patient information. A patient’s allergies, medical history, and family history are all relevant details that must be considered before prescribing medication. Whether the person is taking other medications is also relevant.
- Miscommunication of drug information. Poor handwriting, misplacement of a decimal point, or mixing up the names of drugs can cause a miscommunication of the exact drug prescribed. These errors are easy to make and can happen despite a number of controls meant to prevent them.
- Prescribing the wrong medication. Sometimes the mistake simply involves the wrong drug or an incorrect dosage of the drug. When the doctor prescribes the wrong drug, the underlying condition will usually not be treated.
- Dispensing the wrong medication. Even if the right drug is prescribed, the pharmacist can make an error by giving the patient the wrong one. That could also mean giving the patient the incorrect dosage.
- Improper patient instructions. Either the doctor or pharmacist may fail to advise the patient on how to safely use the drug. For instance, the patient needs to know if mixing alcohol or other drugs with the medicine will cause an adverse reaction.
- Administering the wrong medication. A patient in a hospital, nursing home, or other facility may be given the prescription drug directly by the responsible medical professional. That includes medications that are injected or administered intravenously.
Why Prescription Drug Mistakes Happen
There are plenty of individuals involved with prescribing and dispensing prescription drugs, and that means plenty of opportunities to make a mistake. Medication errors happen for reasons such as:
- Not paying attention
- Not knowing enough about the drug
- Lack of appropriate drug labeling
- Mixing up patient records
- Overworked staff and understaffing
Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other medical professionals may make the prescription drug mistake. The error can happen anywhere medications are prescribed, dispensed, or administered, from hospitals and pharmacies to outpatient clinics and nursing homes.
The Consequences Of Medication Errors
A patient can be harmed in a number of ways if given the wrong drug. One thing it’s important to point out is that a side effect is not the same thing as a medication error. A side effect is not always preventable, even if the correct drug is prescribed and dispensed. Side effects are generally expected physical reactions to drugs, although extreme side effects could be the basis of a drug defect lawsuit. On the other hand, medication errors are preventable mistakes that can seriously injure or kill a patient. These errors may lead to a malpractice claim.
Some of the problems that patients will experience because of a prescription drug error include:
- Adverse chemical reactions. Patients who are already taking other prescription drugs may suffer adverse reactions from new ones.
- Allergic reactions. These can occur because the patient’s medical history wasn’t considered, or because the wrong drug or wrong dosage was prescribed.
- Complications due to the underlying condition not being treated. Having the wrong drug or wrong dosage means the underlying disease or condition will not be properly addressed.
- High blood pressure and heart rate. These can lead to further complications such as heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm.
- Hallucinations and distorted thinking. A patient who experiences these problems could get into an automobile accident or suffer an injury due to operating heavy or dangerous machinery.
- Drug addiction. At a time when the country is grappling with the opioid crisis and other forms of addiction, a prescription drug error can prove especially harmful.
- Brain damage. Among the long-term consequences of a medication mistake is brain damage, which itself can lead to further problems.
What To Do After A Prescription Drug Error
Most errors involving prescription drugs are avoidable, and the result of a healthcare professional failing to carry out their duties properly. Still, it’s the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that a doctor, pharmacist, or other individual made a mistake.
To hold a party responsible for a drug error, the injured patient must prove medical malpractice. That means showing that the healthcare professional’s conduct was unreasonable in light of the circumstances and fell below the accepted standard of care. This is not easy to prove and requires expert witness testimony, a clear presentation of the facts and evidence, and a thorough understanding of Pennsylvania malpractice law.
Having an experienced prescription drug malpractice attorney is critical. Your lawyer will review the facts surrounding your injury and advise you as to your legal rights. You may be able to recover a number of different damages, including compensation for medical expenses, lost wages from work, lost earning capacity, and disability.
If a family member died because of a prescription drug error, you may have a wrongful death claim. It’s important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney right away so you can take action in a timely manner.
Contact Our Philadelphia Prescription Drug Error Attorney
The sooner you act after a prescription drug error, the better. There may be statutes of limitation that apply to your case and which will bar any recovery if you file a claim too late. Malpractice cases are difficult to prove, but necessary to win the compensation you deserve for a medication mistake. Contact Cooper Schall and Levy today to speak with our dedicated team about your case.