Prescription errors, unfortunately, are common. Every year, 7,000 to 9,000 people die as a result of medication errors in the United States, making it the third most common cause of death in the country after heart disease and cancer. It is estimated that many more people are injured from prescription errors that are never even reported. People who suffer from chronic diseases are at a greater risk of prescription errors.
If a prescription error is the result of negligence, the physician, pharmacist, drug company, or hospital system that made the error may be liable to the injured patient for the damage they cause.
What is a prescription error?
The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (N.C.C.M.E.R.P.) defines a medication error as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.” You may also hear them referred to as pharmacy errors or dispensing errors.
Examples of prescription errors include:
- Prescribing or administering the incorrect medication
- Prescribing or administering the wrong dosage of medication
- Failure to give enough of the medication to the patient
- Administering drugs to the wrong patient
- Allergic or adverse reactions to medication
- Dispensing a medication to a patient who has a known allergy to the drug
- Mislabeled medication
- Failure to properly inform or counsel the patient about a drug
- Issues with drug interactions
- Equipment defects
What are common reasons for prescription errors?
Prescription errors happen as a result of human, system, and technical errors. According to recent studies, the most common reasons for medication errors include:
- Breakdown in communication of drug orders
- Illegible handwriting
- Wrong drug selection chosen from a drop-down menu
- Confusion over similarly-named drugs
- Confusion over similar packaging between products
- Errors involving dosing units or weight
- Human errors
- Flawed systems without secondary checks
What kind of harm can be caused by a prescription error?
Prescription errors can cause serious injury to patients, and can sometimes be fatal. The physical harm caused by prescription errors can vary widely but may include side effects and reactions such as:
- Reduced effects of medication
- Untreated disease, leading to progression
- Allergic reactions that can cause rashes, hives, breathing issues, or anaphylaxis
- Damage to internal organs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Brain damage
Emotional trauma and financial costs can also result from prescription errors. When the error is caused by the negligence of a healthcare professional, the patient may be entitled to compensation for all of this harm.
How do I know if I have been injured by a prescription error?
If you are undergoing medical treatment or taking medication, it is important that you or the person caring for you is fully informed about, and checking, all of your medications. If you are unsure about how much or how often to take medication, or if something seems incorrect in the type, dosage, or instructions for the medication, ask your physician or pharmacist. Preventing a prescription error is the best way to avoid harm.
It can be difficult to know that you have been injured by prescription error because patients are often unsure if their pain or other symptoms are the result of their illness, a side effect of correct medication, or a drug error. If you are feeling side effects from your medication that were not communicated by your healthcare provider, or if those side effects seem more severe than those described by your doctor, you may be suffering from a prescription error. It is always advisable to ask your physician and advocate for yourself.
You may not find out that you have been the victim of a prescription error for a long time if the effects are not noticeable to you. A follow-up appointment with your physician or tests may reveal adverse reactions from the medications or may indicate that the illness for which you were taking medication has not been treated fully or properly. It is also possible that you have an immediate or severe reaction after a prescription error that requires emergency treatment.
What should I do if I have been injured by a prescription error?
If you think you have been injured by a prescription error, seek medical help immediately. Depending on your circumstances, this may mean calling 911 for an ambulance, going to the emergency room, getting a second opinion on your treatment, or seeing a trusted healthcare provider. Your first priority is always your health and well-being.
You should also keep a record of all of your medical appointments, treatments, medications, and expenses, including dosing schedules and amounts. Retain the actual paperwork from the pharmacy, as well as the prescription bottle/medicine container, as it is often helpful to identify a medication error. Keep records of the pharmacies and healthcare providers that you use. It is also helpful to keep a diary of how you are feeling physically and emotionally. All of this information could be important in a legal claim for compensation because it is evidence of the damage caused to you by the prescription error.
You should also contact a medical malpractice attorney. You may have been harmed by the actions or failure to act of the very people that you trusted with your care, and you are entitled to answers and compensation. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys like the team at Morris James can help you to get both.
How much compensation should I get if I have been injured by a prescription error?
It is not possible to guarantee the amount of compensation that you will get if you bring a legal claim for a prescription error because every case is different. However, your medical malpractice attorney should be able to explain the elements of compensation in a medical negligence case, and the factors that are important in valuing your claim:
Medical expenses: You are entitled to compensation for your past and future medical expenses including hospital fees, physicians costs, pharmacy bills, and any other medical bills incurred as a result of the prescription error.
Lost wages and benefits: If you miss work for medical appointments, or have a longer term change in your job or career because of the prescription error, you should be compensated for your lost wages and benefits, past and future.
Pain and suffering: Your physical pain and mental trauma caused by the accident is part of your damages. It can be difficult to quantify because it is not evidenced by bills and payslips, and it is important to have an experienced medical malpractice attorney on your side to ensure that they can communicate your suffering to a jury and obtain the compensation you deserve.
Who is liable for prescription errors?
Prescription errors can happen at any stage of the prescribing, packaging, administering, and monitoring of prescription drugs. It is a long and complex system which can involve numerous parties - the prescribing physician, nurses, pharmacists, drug companies, and hospital systems - and any of these parties could be liable for your injuries.
Your attorney will investigate your claim, with the help of medical experts, to determine who was at fault in your care, and who is legally responsible. Often, a medical malpractice claim will name multiple defendants such as the physician, the pharmacist, and the hospital where they work.
Why choose Morris James to represent you?
Medical negligence is a technical and sensitive area of the law that often involves a single injured victim facing a powerful healthcare system or insurance company. As a victim, you need someone on your side who understands how these systems and claims work. The medical malpractice attorneys at Morris James have worked in medical malpractice for years, first defending healthcare providers and now representing injured plaintiffs. They understand the strategies used by defendants against victims to avoid liability, and know how to overcome them.
The attorneys at Morris James help people who have been injured at the hands of negligent healthcare professionals. We fight the healthcare systems and insurance companies who do not pay full and fair compensation to injured victims.
At Morris James, our attorneys have been protecting our clients’ legal rights since we opened our doors in 1932. If you or a loved one has been injured because of a prescription error, contact us online or call 302.655.2599 to find out more.