When an individual receives a prescription from a medical provider, it is only normal to trust that it is the right medication for him or her. Obtaining the right medication in the proper dose is critical to a person’s health, and any failure in the responsibilities of a physician or pharmacist to provide the proper medication and dosage can lead to serious injury, illness, and even wrongful death.
According to the Food and Drug Administration or FDA, medication error can be defined as any preventable event that may result in patient harm or the inappropriate use of medication while the medication is in the control of the patient, consumer, or health care professional.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 82 percent of all adults in the United States use over-the-counter drugs, prescription medicines or dietary supplements every week, while 29 percent of adults take at least five different medications. Of that number, approximately 700,000 emergencies stem from adverse drug events.
The FDA estimates that 7,000 fatalities in the country each year stem from medication errors, with hundreds of thousands more individuals sustaining injuries. Studies also show that individuals over the age of 60 are at most risk of sustaining injuries from these errors because they typically take multiple prescription medications.
Causes of medication errors
Medication errors can occur due to a number of different factors, and may be made by the pharmacist, doctor, nurse, or other parties. Some known causes of medication errors are:
- Illegible handwritten prescriptions
- Confusion caused by drugs with similar design or packaging
- Confusion caused by drug names that look alike, sound alike, or have perplexing abbreviations
- A complex drug regimen
- Missing or insufficient information on a patient’s prescription, drug-interaction and drug-reaction history
- Product characteristics that are almost identical, including dosage form, dosing intervals and drug strength
- Failing to follow proper procedure
Examples of medication errors
Medication errors can take various forms. Common examples of medication errors include:
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Dispensing the wrong medication
- Giving the incorrect dosage
- Miscommunication between pharmacists and doctors
- Failing to administer medication in a timely manner
- Failing to take a comprehensive patient history
- Failing to recognize drug allergies
- Failing to provide drug consultation and explain possible side effects
- Failing to guard against harmful drug interactions
- Mislabeling drugs
- A pharmacist or nurse incorrectly translating a doctor’s handwriting
- Prescribing medication to a patient with a history of prescription medication abuse
Professional standard of care
By law, all pharmacists and physicians are required to meet a professional standard of care. Physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants must be careful to choose the appropriate medication and prescribe it in the proper dosage. They must also take the patient’s unique health situation in order to avoid drug reactions and contradictions. Pharmacists, on the other hand, must be able to fill, dispense and label all prescriptions accurately.
If these health care professionals fail to meet the standard of care expected of them and a medication error occurs and results in a patient’s personal injury or death, then the incident may give rise to a valid medical malpractice claim.
Preventing medication errors
Medication errors may be prevented by being proactive and taking the following steps:
- Providing the doctor with a comprehensive medical history
- Asking the doctor about drugs prescribed
- Independently researching on the medication prescribed
- Double-checking prescription labels to ensure you are receiving the proper medication and the correct dosage
If you have any questions, consult with your physician or pharmacist at the soonest possible time.
Compassionate medical malpractice lawyer ready to help
Serious medication errors can result in severe injury, permanent disability, hospitalization, or even death. If you have reason to believe that you or a loved one was a victim of a medication error, it would be best to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible.
Parties that may potentially be named in a medical malpractice claim focusing on medication errors include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics. The Fitch Law Firm can examine your case exhaustively and help you seek financial compensation for the injuries you have sustained due to medication errors. You may be eligible to collect a recovery for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, mental anguish, and other damages and losses.
We are here to fight for you and help you get the justice you deserve. Call The Fitch Law Firm at 855-LAW-OHIO or fill out our online consultation form to schedule a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.