Medical malpractice is often thought of as a situation when a physician, such as a surgeon, makes a serious mistake that harms a patient. However, surgeons and doctors aren’t the only ones who can make mistakes. As medical science advances and more Americans are prescribed medications to improve their lives, pharmaceutical malpractice by pharmacists and other healthcare professionals has become a growing concern.
What Is Pharmaceutical Malpractice?
Pharmaceutical malpractice is a broad term for medical malpractice that involves avoidable errors or mistakes with the prescribing, filling, or administration of a drug by a pharmacist, pharmacy technician, doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional. Like other types of medical malpractice, pharmaceutical malpractice involves four major elements:
- A duty of care. The healthcare professional must have had a duty of care to the patient via a professional relationship. A pharmacist who dispenses your medications typically has a duty of care to you as a patient, for example.
- A violation of the standards of care. If the pharmacist acted (or failed to act) in such a way as to violate the accepted standards of care for his or her profession, he or she may be found negligent.
- The negligence caused harm to the patient. Proving that the pharmacist’s act of negligence was the source of injury to the patient is a key part of any medical malpractice case.
- The harm resulted in real damages. A patient who has been hurt must also show that he or she has suffered damages as a result of the negligence, such as the cost of medical care to correct the mistake, compensation for disability, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and so on.
Your attorney will be able to help you with this process as he or she analyzes your case, investigates your medical records (including electronic medical records), calls on expert witnesses to provide valuable testimony about your injuries, and presents your case before the court.
Common Prescription Drug Errors
There are often many steps along the chain of care that extend from your doctor’s orders to the medication that you take at home or are given in a hospital. Though you may not interact with your pharmacist regularly when you pick up your prescriptions, he or she plays a critical role in the management of your healthcare. Pharmacists are highly educated, and typically have the responsibility to ensure that your doses are correct, your medications don’t negatively interact with one another, and that you’re not allergic to the medication you’ve been prescribed.
Some of the most common points of failure for prescription drugs include:
- Dispensing the wrong medication. There are thousands of drugs on the market, many with similar names. It’s a part of the pharmacist’s job to know the difference, because taking the wrong drug can become a life-or-death situation. Not only does it mean that your condition isn’t being treated, taking a drug for a condition you don’t have can be fatal.
- Switching prescriptions. Sometimes the medication for two patients can get mixed up, causing harm to one or both victims.
- Making an error in dosage. When the pharmacist (or pharmacy technician) fills a prescription with a dose that’s greater or less than what was prescribed, it can cause serious issues with treatment and a range of dangerous side effects.
- Failing to counsel a patient. Pharmacists also have a duty to inform patients about the drugs that they’re prescribed. If a pharmacist fails to provide counsel to someone over a medication and it results in harm, the pharmacist may be liable for any injuries that result.
Research shows that pharmaceutical mistakes such as these aren’t uncommon, either: according to one 2016 study, over seven million patients experience preventable medication errors annually, costing nearly $21 billion.
Get Legal Help Today
While not all medication errors and related mistakes are considered malpractice, when pharmaceutical negligence results in an injury, patients may be able to pursue a legal claim and receive financial compensation for the harm that they’ve suffered.
When you’re ready to speak to an experienced legal professional about your pharmaceutical malpractice situation, call Wayne Wright LLP today. We believe in standing up for the rights of those who have been injured by medical malpractice and negligence, and we’re here to help you and your family get the justice you deserve in a court of law.
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