Science / Health

Are Doctors Responsible for the Prescriptions they Prescribe?

Yes. Many doctors commit medical malpractice when they prescribe drugs that are inappropriate for a patient and which end up harming those patients, sometimes fatally. The medication error lawyers at Cohen, Placitella & Roth PC have met with many people over the years who lost a loved one or suffered harm themselves when they took a prescription drug inappropriately.

Types of Prescription Drug Errors

A patient can be injured when a doctor does any of the following:

  • Prescribes the wrong drug to a patient. We would hope this would be rare, but it is more common than many people realize.
  • Prescribes a drug the patient is allergic to. Doctors sometimes overlook a patient’s medical file, so they don’t pay attention to allergies, or they fail to ask about allergies altogether.
  • Prescribes a drug with the wrong dosage. A doctor should consider the patient’s condition, sex, age, and weight when determining the proper dosage. If the dosage is too high, for example, a patient could end up right back in the hospital. If the dosage is too low, the patient might never get well.
  • Prescribes a drug that negatively interacts with other medications. Some patients are taking multiple drugs, and a careful doctor should ask about those so they avoid prescribing something that causes a negative reaction with them.

Prescription drug errors are surprisingly common. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about 1.3 million people are injured or killed each year due to prescription errors. These numbers remain stubbornly high, despite the movement to electronic patient records which are designed to minimize mistakes.

Why Doctors Make Prescription Drug Errors

A doctor who is following the correct standard of care should not make these types of errors listed above. Unfortunately, many errors stem from:

  • Overwork—when a doctor is too tired they can make clumsy mistakes.
  • Alcohol or drug addiction—a doctor who is not thinking clearly can easily be negligent.
  • Inadequate patient records—much information goes missing from records, especially when patients switch doctors.
  • Prescribing drugs without meeting with a patient—a doctor can lose out on critical information when this happens.

Patients can contribute to the confusion, however. For example, a patient might not disclose all the drugs she is taking or her allergies. And since a doctor can’t read a patient’s mind, they have no way of knowing that the drug they are prescribing is dangerous.

A Word on Defective Drugs

Doctors are not always responsible for a negative reaction a patient has to a prescription drug. For example, a drug might be defective and have side effects which outweigh any health benefit for the patient. However, doctors are not always aware of these risks, primarily because they are not disclosed by the manufacturer. Your local doctor is not charged with manufacturing drugs or determining whether they are safe enough to go onto the market—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes on that role.

Compensation for Victims Injured by Prescription Errors

If you or a loved one was prescribed the wrong drug, then you might qualify for compensation to cover the cost of medical care, lost income, and pain and suffering. For example, someone might end up in the hospital with cardiac arrest and incur mammoth medical bills, all because they took the wrong drug.

If a loved one died, then other types of compensation are available in Pennsylvania. To learn more, you should schedule a meeting with an experienced medication error attorney in Philadelphia to review your medical history.

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