Medications are a crucial element of our healthcare system, and as such, so are the manufacturers that make them, and the pharmacies that distribute them. Unfortunately, sometimes manufacturers and pharmacies make mistakes and as a result, patients suffer illness or injury. That’s why we are providing readers with some examples of pharmaceutical malpractice.
Read on to learn more about pharmaceutical malpractice, the scope of the problem, and what you can do to protect your health, safety, and legal rights. If you have specific questions about pharmaceutical malpractice, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our medical malpractice attorneys.
Examples of Pharmaceutical Malpractice
Pharmacy malpractice occurs when someone is negligent and as a result, someone else is injured. This negligence may be on the part of a drug manufacturer, a doctor, or a pharmacist. Some of the most common examples of pharmaceutical malpractice include:
Defective drugs are one of the most commonly recalled products in the United States. There have been numerous drugs recalled because they were not as safe as originally thought. Recalls are commonly initiated for the following reasons:
- A drug may be rushed to the market without adequate testing for safety.
- The long-term side effects of some drugs are very difficult to determine.
- Drugs may be tested, but by the same company manufacturing them, which can cause a conflict of interest.
- Drugs may contain ingredients that should not be there, such as when drugs are cross-contaminated during manufacturing.
- Drugs may be contaminated with chemicals or bacteria.
A few drug recalls due to defective drugs that made worldwide headlines include:
- Fen-Phen: Used for many years as a management option for obesity, Fen-Phen was found to have a combination of drugs that caused heart valve disease.
- Celebrex: Celebrex was also used for many years for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis. It has since been recalled due to concerns about the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Vioxx: Vioxx was used to treat menstrual pain, acute pain, and osteoarthritis. Like Celebrex, Vioxx could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Improperly Prescribed Drugs
Improperly prescribed drugs refers to cases where a doctor prescribes a medication that is inappropriate for the patient. In most cases, this type of pharmaceutical malpractice occurs when a doctor does not adequately review the medications already being taken by the patient. In such cases, the doctor may prescribe another medication that contradicts what is being taken, or amplifies the risk of side effects.
Improperly Filled Prescriptions
Improperly filled prescriptions is a type of pharmaceutical malpractice that is unfortunately common. Pharmacy malpractice occurs when a pharmacist gives the patient the wrong medication, or fills the prescription with the wrong dosage. This is common because many drugs have similar names, and sometimes pharmacy staff cannot accurately interpret the doctor’s prescription instructions. It is the responsibility of the pharmacist to review instructions, confirm the prescription, and ensure that the patient is given the correct medication and dosage. Patients taking the wrong medication or the wrong dose are at risk for a variety of side effects, and the condition supposedly being treated may continue or get worse.
Failure to Advise about Negative Long-Term Side Effects
Pharmacists also have a responsibility to counsel patients about any prescriptions being filled. This includes advising patients about any possible drug interactions, food reactions, limitations on activities, known side effects, etc. The pharmacist also has a responsibility to ensure that prescriptions are properly labeled and include warnings and side effect risks. Failing to advise patients about possible risks can (and does) result in negative side effects, injuries, and even deaths.
How Common is Pharmacy Malpractice?
Despite efforts to ensure that manufacturers, doctors, and pharmacists follow the standards of care, pharmaceutical malpractice continues to be a serious problem plaguing the healthcare industry. Consider the following data:
- An estimated 1.3 million people in the U.S. are injured by pharmaceutical errors each year.
- An estimated 106,000 deaths each year are caused by adverse side effects of medications.
- Around 7,000 deaths occur each year due to medication errors in hospitals.
- The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that around 98,000 American patients die each year due to preventable medical errors.
- In 2002, one study showed that hospitals in the U.S. had an incorrect dosage rate of 20 percent causing harm to patients.
- In 2003, 24 percent of pharmacists studied admitted that they had intercepted written prescription errors.
- The cost of pharmaceutical errors ranges from $20 to $75 billion each year in the U.S.
This data is startling, but represents only a fraction of the devastation caused by pharmaceutical malpractice.
How to Protect Your Family from Pharmaceutical Errors
As a consumer, you do your best to ask questions, review products, and trust that manufacturers have done their part to keep your family safe. When it comes to prescription drugs, you also must trust that your doctor and pharmacist are acting ethically, in line with the standards of care, and in your best interests.
To protect your family from pharmaceutical errors, your first line of defense is asking questions and doing your own research. Never settle for general information if you have questions or concerns. If you or a family member have been injured due to a prescription drug defect, error, or improper administration, you may also find it helpful to take your questions and concerns to a medical malpractice attorney.
At Brown & Brothers, our medical malpractice attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and determine if your unfortunate situation is the result of pharmaceutical malpractice. Fill out our online form to get started, and schedule a free consultation.