Last Updated on March 11, 2024

The Most Common Prescription Errors: Are They Medical Malpractices?

Medication errors impact not only at-risk patients but their families as well. Apart from additional medical expenses, families also endure psychological and emotional pain as a result. In the U.S., about 7,000 to 9,000 people die as a result of a medication error annually

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives more than 100,000 reports related to prescription errors every year. These errors result in death, life-altering complications, extended hospitalizations, permanent disabilities, and birth defects. Incidents of medication errors also contribute to the public’s distrust of the U.S. healthcare system – possibly contributing to more indirect harm in the long run.

Pinpointing liability for prescription errors can be a little trickier. Furthermore, the New York statute of limitations** can be drawn differently from case to case. We advise that you consult medical malpractice lawyers as soon as possible, to get some expert insights for the validity of your claim.

**rule that determines the time period wherein your claim is valid

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Understanding Liability

Liability refers to a party's legal responsibility for the consequences of their actions or inactions.

Given that medication errors can occur at any point in your treatment, doctors, pharmacies, and even healthcare facilities can be held liable for your claim.

A recent study shows that almost 50% of documented medication errors occurred during prescription – meaning doctors are generally at fault for these errors. Still, it is important to understand how different parties within the healthcare system interact. This will allow your legal team to strengthen your claim. We’ll take a closer look at these parties in the next segment.

Common Prescription Errors in the U.S.

Most prescription errors are preventable. With enough attention, parties within the healthcare system can ensure that at-risk patients remain safe.

Patients with long-term complications are strongly vulnerable to these errors. This is equally true for elderly and pediatric patients. Their weakened health is more susceptible to adverse complications resulting from prescription errors. Medication mistakes are also common in individuals with insufficient medical education. 

Mistakes Made by Doctors

Doctors deal with about 6,800 prescription medications and countless over-the-counter drugs through the course of their careers. It is their duty to properly identify the interactions between these drugs. Working in stress-inducing environments also contributes to their disappointing performances. Doctors who are not well – professionally, physically, emotionally, or psychologically – often commit mistakes when prescribing medications.

Here are some examples of common mistakes a doctor could commit:

  1. Providing improper dose and/or frequency
  2. Insufficient Patient Education
  3. Mixing up prescriptions for different patients
  4. Lack of communication with the other medical staff
  5. Failing to identify possible complications
  6. Improper monitoring and diagnosis
  7. Poor handwriting

Respective medical facilities could also be held liable if you can prove faults within their system. Inexperienced staff members, a lack of standard policies, unreasonable work schedules, or cultivating an unhealthy work environment are only some of the reasons that could justify your claim.

Mistakes Made by Pharmacists 

Even with the correct prescription, errors can still occur while you’re obtaining your medications. Errors made by pharmacists are easily preventable with enough communication efforts. While it is your doctor’s duty to make pharmacists understand your needs, it is your pharmacist's duty to properly interpret your doctor’s notes. Pharmacists are trained to be familiar with drugs and how they interact.

Here are some examples of common mistakes pharmacists commit:

  1. Dispensing the wrong dosage
  2. Providing ineffective medications
  3. Not recognizing drug contradictions
  4. Not recognizing drug allergies

Other Causes of Medication Errors

These result from various systemic factors within subpar medical facilities. Some common occurrences include (but are not limited to):

  1. Expired Product - results from improper storage
  2. Incorrect Duration - when medication is shorter/longer than ideal
  3. Incorrect Preparation - occurs when wrong substances are used together
  4. Incorrect Rate - especially true for intravenous treatments 
  5. Incorrect Timing - for medications that should be taken with/without food
  6. Incorrect Dose - for in-patients under the care of an uncoordinated medical team
  7. Incorrect Patient Action - for out-patients who were not properly educated
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Responsibilities of Healthcare Professionals

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has come up with standard practices that could be cited when trying to establish your claim. These practices take every step of your medication into account, which include:

Prescribing- Practice conservative prescribing
- Computerize all order entries
- Reconciliate medications during transition periods
Transcribing- Computerize all prescribed orders to eliminate handwriting errors
Dispensing- Overseen by a clinical pharmacist
- Use Tall Man lettering to avoid confusion
- Use automated dispensing cabinets for high-risk drugs
Administration- Adherence to "Five Rights" (Right Medication, in the Right Dose, at the Right Time, by the Right Route, to the Right Patient)
- Use barcode medication administration
- Use smart infusion pumps
- Minimize interruptions within the team
- Compartmentalize and segregate different medications
- Educate patients and tailor instructions properly

Speak to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

At the Porter Law Group, we strengthen and evaluate your case with licensed medical professionals. This approach allows us to establish your claim holistically and effectively pinpoint who should be held responsible. We operate on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t have to pay anything unless we win.

If you or a loved one is suffering due to medication errors, please reach out to us for a no-obligation, free case evaluation. You may also contact us at 833-PORTER9 or to schedule an appointment.

Written By
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
Legally Reviewed on March 8, 2024
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Eric C. Nordby on March 8, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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