If your daily routine includes taking a prescription drug – for high blood pressure, pain relief, infection, depression or any one of countless ailments that can now be treated with pharmaceuticals – you’re certainly not alone. Figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that 48.5% of Americans have used at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days; 21.7% have used three or more such drugs. Visits to doctors’ offices result in nearly 3 billion scripts for drugs each year – and that doesn’t count drugs prescribed during a hospital stay or in nursing homes. No wonder it seems like there is a Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, or CVS on every street corner!
The fact is, our life span is longer and our quality of life is better, thanks to the miracles delivered by tablets, capsules and syrups. Sadly, for some individuals, though, an error in prescribing a drug or filling the prescription has resulted in adverse effects, including death. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 4,110 people are injured every day in the U.S. because a medical professional or pharmacist made a mistake.
Types of Medication Mistakes
Doctors, physician’s assistants, dentists, psychiatrists and osteopaths are among the professionals who are authorized to prescribe drugs. Their patients may be harmed if they make one of these errors in prescribing:
- Failing to recognize a dangerous or deadly drug interaction
- Writing a prescription for the wrong drug or at the wrong dosage
- Prescribing a medication to which the patient is allergic
- Giving confusing instructions for when or how to take the medication
- Writing illegibly
- Failing to monitor the patient for side effects.
Pharmacists may err in filling a patient’s prescription in one of the following ways:
- Providing the wrong drug to the patient
- Filling the prescription with the right drug but in the wrong strength
- Failing to contact the doctor if they have questions about the prescription
- Failing to provide instruction or counseling
- Confusing drugs with similar names.
Why do medication errors occur?
For both healthcare providers and pharmacists, the main cause of medication mistakes is reflected in figures.
A 2012 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that 37 percent of physicians work more than 60 hours a week. Doctors are going to be taking on even more patients as a result of health care reform giving medical insurance to millions who were previously unable to afford office visits. As healthcare providers spend less time with each patient, they may overlook important information about the patient’s medical history and drugs currently being taken, not to mention drugs that have previously had harmful side effects.
A prescribing professional must keep up to date about newly released drugs, as well as those that have come under scrutiny and are no longer the drug of choice for a particular ailment. Drug companies aim a lot of their advertising at the consumer, hoping he or she will ask the physician for a prescription for a particular drug. Doctors who agree to do so when the medication is not called for, or is in fact wrong for the patient’s condition, are making serious mistakes that could have serious consequences.
Most of us have been handed free drug samples, provided by manufacturers to doctors’ offices. When free drug samples are distributed, there is no proper documentation of the medications’ use by the patient, and often the counseling and drug-interaction checks that would have been done in a pharmacy are neglected by the physician.
Just as physicians are seeing more patients, pharmacists are filling more orders. In 2000, 2.9 billion retail prescriptions were filled in the U.S.; by 2005, the number had risen to 3.6 billion – a 71% increase since 1994. With that many orders to fill, pharmacists are subject to overwork, fatigue, and stress.
Distraction also contributes to pharmacy errors. Telephone calls, requests for information, and other interruptions cause pharmacists to lose focus on their task, creating the opportunity for dispensing errors.
Many drugs, both brand name and generic, have look-alike or sound-alike drugs. The U.S. Pharmacopeia’s (USP) data reporting program (MEDMARX) says that more than 1,400 commonly used drugs are involved in errors linked to drug names that look alike or sound alike, including all of the 10 most commonly prescribed drugs. A busy pharmacist can easily pick up the wrong one, which could have disastrous consequences for the patient.
Wrong Drug? Right Response.
If you believe that a medication mistake or pharmacy error caused you to become ill or suffer side effects or an overdose, or if you lost a loved one because the wrong drug was prescribed, you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries or your loss. At the Louthian Law Firm in Columbia, South Carolina, we have been securing justice for hardworking people and families since 1959. You should not have to pay the price – either in dollars and cents or in diminished quality of life – because of the negligence of a healthcare professional.
Medication errors are preventable errors. When a doctor or pharmacist is so rushed, or distracted, or ill-informed, or careless, that a patient is harmed, they can be held accountable in a court of law for their errors. A medication error attorney like those at the Louthian Law Firm will formulate a malpractice action through meticulous research, working with accredited medical experts to determine whether pharmacological and healthcare standards were met. If you or your loved one received the wrong drug, the reasoned advice of our seasoned professionals can put you on the right track.
Call (803) 454-1200 or use our online contact form to arrange a free consultation about your South Carolina drug injury.