Pharmaceutical Errors and Your Legal Rights

Almost 7,000 different types of prescription medications are available in the United States. A medication or pharmaceutical error is defined 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 healthcare professional, patient, or consumer,” according to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention.

Pharmaceutical errors related to medication are responsible for hundreds of thousands of injuries and fatalities each year. When there is a pharmaceutical error, patients can suffer ill effects, their condition can worsen by not receiving the correct medication, or they may even die.

Pharmaceutical errors are a subset of medical malpractice law and can result in serious injury or death to a victim. Medical malpractice typically boils down to negligence, where a medical professional should have acted with a degree of care required by a skilled and competent health care professional. When a pharmaceutical error has an adverse or negative effect on a patient, the victim has a right to seek legal compensation for damages and injuries suffered.

Types of Pharmaceutical Errors

While there are several types of pharmaceutical errors that can occur, the most common types include:

  • Administration of the wrong medication
  • A patient receiving another patient’s prescription medication
  • Administering the wrong medication in a mislabeled bottle
  • Administering the wrong dosage of a medication
  • Confusing of medications with similar names
  • Administering a medication that has negative interactions with other medication the patient is taking
  • Failure to check a patient’s history and allergies
  • Mislabeling the medication
  • Incorrect oral or written communication regarding the medication
  • Lack of protocol with respect to medication administration

Depending on which of these errors occurred, the effects of a pharmaceutical mistake can range widely. Most importantly, each one of these errors is easily preventable, making pharmaceutical errors one of the costliest avoidable mistakes that exist in the United States.

Failure to Discuss Medication Risks and Benefits

One specific instance that accounts for a great deal of injury is the failure to discuss medication risks and benefits with a patient. Each time a patient obtains a prescription, they should be given an option to visit with a pharmacist and provide their informed consent regarding the medication. Potentially dangerous side effects, possible medication interactions or allergic reactions can all have significant or deadly effects on a patient.

Patients should be informed of all risks and ensured that they have been given the correct medication, in the correct dosage, and reassured that there are no medication interactions or allergies that would cause an adverse effect. Additionally, this visit with a medical expert can alert the pharmacist of either unknown or missed interactions or errors. The failure to discuss medication risks and benefits can be a life-altering decision for both the patient and the medical professional.

Types of Injuries Suffered from a Pharmaceutical Error

While there are numerous types of injuries suffered from pharmaceutical errors, the most common include overdose, poisoning, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, toxicity, and death. Some injuries are suffered immediately, while others gradually develop over time.

If you feel you have been the victim of a pharmaceutical error, contact a medical malpractice attorney to learn how you can receive recourse and compensation for your injuries.

Who is Liable for a Pharmaceutical Error?

A pharmaceutical error can happen during any point of the prescription process. From the time the medication is ordered to the time it is provided to the patient, up until the time it is dispensed, a pharmaceutical error can occur. There are multiple causes for pharmaceutical errors, and therefore, there are several parties that can be liable for this type of medical malpractice. The most common parties that are held liable include:

  • A doctor can make a diagnosis, prescription, or dosage error. Additionally, a doctor can fail to discuss drug interactions or check patient allergies before prescribing a medication.
  • Other Healthcare Professionals (nurse, etc.). A nurse or other healthcare professional may be charged with the administration of the medication. If the administration of the medication is handled incorrectly, or the incorrect dosage is distributed, this can create liability. This typically falls under medical error but could also be considered under certain circumstances as a pharmaceutical error.
  • A hospital can be held liable for the policies and procedures in place regarding the administration and distribution of medication by its employees. Again, this typically falls under medical error, but could also be considered under certain circumstances as a pharmaceutical error.
  • A pharmacist can be held liable for a pharmaceutical error if the medication was prepared improperly, the wrong dosage provided, or the wrong medication given to a patient entirely.
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturer. It is possible that the medication was manufactured improperly by the pharmaceutical company. In these cases, the liability typically completely rests with the manufacturer of the medication.

It is important to note that in some cases, more than one of the above parties can be held responsible. As articulated in an article published by the Mayo Clinic, consequences for pharmaceutical errors can include civil lawsuits, medical board discipline or even criminal legal charges. Each situation involving a pharmaceutical error is different and unique and contacting an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you understand your rights and receive compensation for your injuries.

An Advocate on Your Side

You have the right to receive medicine without harm, or fear of injury. Small errors regarding pharmaceutical medications can result in serious injuries or death. If you suspect you have received the wrong medication or received a drug that was dangerous to you, you should immediately seek medical care and attention.

If you were a victim of a pharmaceutical error or mistake, and have suffered injuries, contact one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys today. We can help you investigate the pharmaceutical error, determine liability, and recover the compensation you are owed.

If you or a loved one were injured due to a pharmaceutical error, contact Silverthorne Attorneys today. Our knowledgeable and skilled medical malpractice lawyers will help you understand your rights. For a complimentary consultation of your case, contact us at (949) 234-6034 or online today.