Many people are familiar with the concept of medical malpractice — where a doctor fails to follow the standard of care of a reasonably well-qualified doctor and, as a result, the patient is seriously injured. But fewer people are aware that medical professionals other than doctors and nurses, such as pharmacists, can commit professional malpractice.
Pharmacists, like physicians and nurses, are trained medical professionals — with respect to accurately filling prescriptions. Pharmacists are also charged with disclosing to the patient, both on the label and in verbal instructions, the requirements and instructions for appropriate use of the medication, and any necessary warnings. Pharmacists are also responsible for checking for potentially harmful drug interactions (contraindications), warning the patient, and correcting the problem.
The improper administration of prescription medications is not a rare or trifling matter. In fact, medication errors (prescription and hospital-administered) cause approximately 7,000 deaths annually.
Pharmacy errors account for a large percentage of these deaths. In fact, a study by researchers at Auburn University in 2003, it was found that one out of every 55 prescriptions dispensed in the United States involved an error of some kind (or 1.72% of all U.S. prescriptions).
Many of these errors are small enough to escape notice and cause no problems. Others, however, are dangerous, expensive, and deadly. A 2006 study by the Institute of Medicine concluded that each year in the United States, pharmaceutical errors cost $3.5 billion annually (injuring 1.5 million Americans).
There are several possible kinds of pharmacy medication error, such as:
- Failure to check what other medications the patient is taking, which may result in a deadly drug interaction;
- Administering an incorrect dosage of the drug; and
- Administering the wrong drug
When the wrong drug is administered, there are many potential consequences. The patient may suffer detrimental effects or side effects from the medicine he receives. And, naturally, his original condition is not being treated, because he has not received the medication he was actually prescribed. The incorrectly administered medicine may also interact with the patient’s other medications, although the correct medicine would not have. When the correct medicine is given, but in an incorrect dosage, the patient could either receive insufficient medicine to treat his condition, or receive too much medication and risk an overdose.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago drug malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.