Medication Errors – Do They Qualify as Medical Malpractice?
When you visit the doctor or are under the care of a medical professional, you trust that you are getting safe and appropriate treatment for your condition. This includes being given a prescription for a medication or having drugs administered while in a healthcare facility.
Sadly, sometimes pharmaceuticals can do harm to a patient instead of help them. When you or a loved one are harmed by a medication error, the pharmacist, doctor, nurse, or hospital could be held responsible for damages.
How Common Are Medication Errors?
Most people need medication at some point in their lives. It might be to treat a common or serious illness or to prevent or manage one. But mistakes do happen with alarming frequency. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that 7,000 people die annually due to preventable medication errors.
A report released by the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI) concluded that preventable medication errors cost as much as $21 billion annually and result in countless additional inpatient admissions and outpatient visits.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, a medication error can occur at any point in the distribution system, which includes:
- Packaging and labeling medication
- Prescribing medication
- Dispensing and administering drugs
- Monitoring medication
Some classes of drugs are more likely to be involved in errors than others. According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), the top classes of drugs that are involved in errors include:
- Narcotics/Opioids (7%)
- Antimicrobials (5.7%)
- Antipsychotics (4.6%)
- Anticoagulants (3.6%)
- Electrolytes (2.2%)
Types of Medication Errors That Can Lead to Medical Malpractice Claim
Anyone who is involved with prescribing, packaging, dispensing, or monitoring prescription drugs can be liable for medication errors. This includes pharmaceutical manufacturers, hospitals, pharmacists, physicians, and nurses.
There are five common medication errors that generally qualify as medical malpractice.
1. The Wrong Medication Dosage
The National Quality Forum reports that as many as 37% of medication errors stem from a provider giving the wrong dosage of a drug. A portion of these mistakes comes from transcription errors, where a pharmacy might dispense the right drug but provide 100mg tablets instead of the prescribed 10mg. If bad handwriting was the cause of this error, a physician could be held accountable for the outcome.
2. The Wrong Drug
Pharmacy Times reports that 21% of all medication errors are due to mistakes in dispensing. This scenario occurs when a pharmacist provides a patient with the wrong drug. Pharmacies are hectic environments, and these professionals are asked to multitask, which can result in dangerous errors. A pharmacist might inadvertently switch two drugs or grab a drug off of the shelf with a similar name.
3. Incorrect Label or Directions
A medical professional might enter erroneous instructions into a computer, which are then passed on to the patient. If it leads to a patient receiving too much or too little of a medication and it results in additional harm, that provider could be held responsible. Likewise, a pharmacist might put the wrong warning labels on a medication or leave them off entirely. These types of errors can kill or cause serious medical issues.
4. Failure to Review Medications
Medical professionals are required to review a patient’s medications. Those who fail to do this can put these patients in serious danger. Pharmacists and nurses catch a majority of medication errors. Some patients take prescriptions that could have dangerous interactions with other drugs. Others have severe allergies listed in their medical records. It is the healthcare professional’s job to monitor and catch these issues.
5. Inadequate Consultation
Pharmacists have a duty to consult with patients about the drugs they are taking. They should counsel patients about the effects and possible side effects of any drug as well as any interactions with other medications, food, sunlight, etc. When a pharmacist fails to do this, the patient has a higher chance of suffering harm from a medication issue.
Speak with a Qualified Birmingham Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you were injured or lost a loved one due to a preventable medication error, the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Mann & Potter, PC will pursue justice on your behalf. While an insurance company might offer you a settlement, these are generally lowball offers meant to get you to sign away your right to fair compensation.
When you’ve been medically harmed or are dealing with a wrongful death, the damages can be substantial. Our firm has been fighting for the rights and financial security of accident victims and their families for over 20 years, and we’ll do the same for you.
Contact our Birmingham office today at 205-879-9661 or reach out to us online to schedule a free initial consultation.
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