There is a haunting number of patients who are injured in the United States each year because of preventable medication errors. In fact, 1.3 million are injured each year from these prescription errors. Sadly, most of them are preventable, and these injuries lead to significant harm or even death.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the number of fatal medication errors from 1993 to 1998 were related to medications that had improper dosages. This accounted for 41 percent of all errors. Giving the wrong drug and incorrectly administering that drug accounted for over 16 percent of fatalities in the country. Also, most of the fatal errors occurred in patients who were over 60 years old. Older people are at higher risk, because they take multiple medications on a daily basis.
There are a variety of reasons why these fatal medication errors occur. Most occur at the pharmaceutical level, but there are also instances where they can happen during a hospital stay or when a physician is prescribing a medication to the patient.
Some common causes of medication errors include:
Regardless of what is prescribed and by whom, it is a patient’s responsibility to also know what medications are being taken, what they do, and how they could interact with current prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
Anyone who is the victim of a medication error should seek medical assistance right away. After the injury, they do have the right to bring civil action against the pharmacy, physician, and possibly the drug manufacturer – depending on the type of injury and reasons for the injury happening. Minor injuries, such as vomiting, dizziness, or other minor side-effects that affect the patient’s life can be actionable in a personal injury lawsuit.
To receive compensation, the plaintiff must prove that the legal elements were present in his or her injury. These legal elements include:
Anyone injured by a pharmaceutical error should hold on to all evidence. This includes the prescription bottle, packaging that came with the medication, the receipt for payment, and the name of the pharmacist and technician who was on duty. This information may be on the paperwork given to the patient.
The attorney for the patient may contact the pharmacy’s headquarters and serve them with a certified letter about the claim, mistake, and injury. There will be some evidence provided to substantiate the claim, and a malpractice attorney may be able to receive compensation directly from the headquarters without having to file a lawsuit or take the claim to trial.
The patient should receive compensation for his or her injuries and medical costs, as well as the physical and emotional suffering from the traumatic injury that was endured. He or she may have ongoing medical expenses, as well, for which an attorney can seek compensation to ensure that the victim is fully covered.
Also, if patients miss work because of a side-effect or medication error, they may be able to receive compensation for their lost wages. If there is permanent disability or if they are unable to return to work as they once were, they may be able to receive compensation for their future lost wages, as well. These types of compensation are best sought through a malpractice attorney to ensure that the claim is approved and the patients receive adequate compensation for their long-term injuries.
All patients have the right to safe and accurate medications. Therefore, if a patient suffers an injury because of inadequate prescribing or dispensing of medications, he or she may be able to file a lawsuit.
The patient can file a claim with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) to report the error. This non-profit organization is devoted to preventing errors in the future. The patient can also write to the ISMP and describe the mistake in more detail. He or she can include information such as the reaction to the medication, and the physician or pharmacy error that was suspected. He or she can also tell the ISMP how the error occurred or how it is thought to have happened. A patient has the right to share any recommendations that he or she has.
If the error occurred by the manufacturer, the patient may have the right to file a claim against not only the pharmacy that dispensed the medication, but the manufacturer of the drug, as well.
A patient should hire an attorney if the injury is more serious than a 24 hour side-effect that goes away. If there was a requirement to be admitted to the hospital, or if the patient suffers from a serious and life-threatening reaction, he or she should consult with a medical malpractice attorney who also knows about dangerous drugs and pharmaceutical errors. The attorney can then examine the facts of the case to determine if the patient has a case against the physician, hospital, or pharmacy that dispensed the medication.
Those injured because of a medication error can contact an attorney right away to explore their options. There are free consultations and attorneys available to assist throughout the week. Those who have suffered serious injury may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the drug, the physician, or the pharmacy’s corporate headquarters for the prescription error.