Are Doctors or Pharmacists More Responsible for Prescription Errors?

Prescription Errors Can Cause Serious Side Effects

Millions of people head to pharmacies across the country to fill prescriptions given to them by their doctors. However, the medications they receive will only be effective if given in the correct dosage for an ailment they are confirmed to have. If a patient is given a medication that is inappropriate for their needs or too strong for them, they could suffer from serious, even permanent, side effects. Medications are prescribed by doctors, but administered by pharmacists; who is to blame when things go wrong?

What Are Common Prescription Errors?

The term “prescription error” is broad and refers to a significant number of mistakes that can be made by both a prescriber and a pharmacist.

Some of the most common prescription errors include:

  • Improper dosage: If a patient is prescribed the correct medication but in the wrong amount, they may end up with negative side effects or permanent damage.
  • Incorrect medication: If a patient is given a medication that does not work for their specific issue or medication that differs from their prescription, they can end up sicker than they were to start.
  • Incorrect administration: If a prescription advises a patient to administer their medication incorrectly, they can experience serious illness and even death. For example, if a medication needs to be given through injection but the prescription tells the patient to consume the medication orally, the patient could become ill.
  • Incorrect patient: In some cases, a patient is given medication intended for another patient. If they don’t catch this before taking the medication, they could wind up seriously ill or worse.
  • Conflicting medications: If a patient is prescribed a medication that reacts negatively with another medication they are already taking, they can become seriously ill.
  • Mislabeling: A doctor may prescribe a patient the correct medication and dosage for their specific issue, but a pharmacist may mislabel the medication. This can lead to serious issues if the mislabeling causes the patient to use the medication incorrectly.

While many of these errors can be traced back to the original prescription, pharmacists have an obligation to discuss prescription medications with the patient receiving them. If they fail to do so, they may miss an error that could have been otherwise avoided.

How Do These Errors Happen?

Many prescription errors could have been avoided had the proper precautions been taken by the person administering the prescription.

Some of the main conditions that lead to prescription errors include:

  • Lack of staffing: A significant number of pharmacies do not have the staff needed to match their workload. When the pharmacy gets busy, employees are more likely to make mistakes that they would not otherwise.
  • Technical failures: Most doctor’s offices and pharmacies rely heavily on computerized systems to complete their daily tasks. These systems can fail and cause prescriptions to be administered incorrectly.
  • Negligence: Unfortunately, negligence is one of the most common reasons that prescription errors occur. A doctor or pharmacist must check for conflicting medications, confirm that the patient understands the purpose of the medication and how to use it, and confirm that the correct medication is given to the correct person. Failure to follow through on any one of these is considered negligence.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Prescription Errors?

Ultimately, anyone involved in the process of prescribing and administering medication to a patient can be liable for prescription errors. The person who is liable for a prescription error depends on what point the error took place. For example, if a doctor prescribes a medication to a patient who does not need it, the doctor would be responsible for any consequences that result. However, if a medication is mislabeled or a patient is not informed about their medication when they pick it up, the pharmacist would be responsible for any consequences.

Symptoms of Adverse Drug Interactions

Mixing medications can have serious health effects if not done properly. Some signs to look for regarding adverse drug interactions include:

  • Rash
  • Sudden bruising or bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

Contact a Medication Error Attorney Today

If you have suffered a serious injury due to a prescription error, contact Attorney David Kates today. With over 20 years of experience in law, Attorney Kates will fight on your behalf to seek justice for what you endured.

For results-driven legal assistance, contact Law Office of David A. Kates, PLLC at (718) 866-3664 or fill out this online contact form.