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Prescription Drug Error Attorneys in Seattle

Did You Suffer Harm Because of Prescription Drugs, Like Opioids?

For patients, the goal of taking medications is to heal. The consequences of medication errors can range from not-so-serious to life-changing and tragic. Errors with prescription medication are avoidable, and tragic consequences that arise from these mistakes are preventable. But, negligence by a physician, pharmacist, nurse, or any other medical professional can be devastating, or even lethal.

The experienced Seattle medical malpractice attorneys at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. understand the trauma these preventable mistakes can cause for victims and their families. If you or a loved one has suffered serious side effects as the result of prescription drug errors, please contact us for more information about your legal rights and options.

We can be reached at (888) 228-3860.

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What Are Common Mistakes with Prescription Drugs?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a medication error as any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer. Medication errors can happen in prescribing, product labeling or packaging, dispensing or distribution.

Some of the most common errors involving prescription drugs include:

  • Administering the wrong medication: Prescribing the wrong medication, and then giving it to a patient, can have devastating consequences. Not only do patients receive dangerous drugs, but during that time, they aren't receiving the medication necessary for their healing and recovery. Doctors are liable when they prescribe or administer the wrong drug.
  • Administering the drug incorrectly: There are many ways to administer a drug. Patients must be told the correct way to take their prescribed drugs. Some drugs don't work correctly when they're delivered to the wrong body part.
  • Allergies: The prescribing doctor and the pharmacist are both responsible for keeping track of the patient's allergies. Patients may be severely allergic to certain drugs and administering them could prove lethal.
  • Wrong dosage: Providing too much of a drug can have devastating effects on the body. When patients receive too little a dosage, it may fail to have the desired effect. This can prevent the patient from recovering.
  • Mislabeling: Some medications are mislabeled by the manufacturer, while others are given inaccurate labels at the pharmacy. In either case, the patient may receive the wrong dosage or misleading instructions.
  • Failure to warn: All drugs come with some risk of side effects. Doctors must inform patients about common side effects and educate them about what precautions should be taken while on the medication.
  • Drug interactions: Some drugs do not interact well with other medications. Doctors and pharmacists must keep track of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs that patients are taking to ensure that certain combinations are avoided.
  • Pharmacy error: Sometimes our medications are actually filled by a pharmacy tech with little or no oversight and a large volume of daily work load. This could be a prescription for disaster when mistakes are made.

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The Rise of Opioid Addiction

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes both legal and illegal substances. Legal prescription medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine are administered for pain relief. Illegal versions of opioids include heroin, and synthetic compounds such as non-prescription fentanyl.

To block out pain, the opioid binds to the opioid receptor cells in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the body. By blocking the receptors, opioids not only block out the pain signals from the brain, but also release large amounts of dopamine into the body. Dopamine is a “pleasure” chemical that has an impact on motor control, motivation, arousal, reinforcement, and reward. This continued release of dopamine is a driving force behind addiction to opioids. Opioid receptors multiply in response to use, so it takes more and more opioids over time to block the pain and experience the pleasure. In some cases, patients will take more medication than their prescription specifies, or take medication that has been prescribed for another person, just to experience relief. Addiction destroys lives, and one overdose can end life completely.

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When Prescribing Opioids Is Malpractice

All medical professionals are required to follow specific guidelines when treating patients. These guidelines outline how to safely prescribe medications such as opioids, which are known to be addictive and can have a detrimental impact on a patient’s life. The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied the impact that the medical profession has had on the opioid crisis in America. Their findings indicate that medical professionals need to be more selective about how frequently they prescribe opioids, and be more diligent in monitoring patients taking opioids. Here are the main ways doctors have harmed instead of helped patients:

  • Overprescribing: After surgery, a patient is told to take the opioid pills for a few days, as needed. The patient should need less than 20 pills to start. But rather than addressing a refill request later, the doctor gives a prescription for 30, 60, or even 90 pills, more than the patient really needs, which creates the danger of dependence.
  • Managing chronic pain: Many doctors seeking a fast solution for a patient’s pain choose to prescribe opioids instead of less addictive medications, which might not provide as much pain relief. While a fast solution to pain seems like a good idea, it is critical that the doctor take the time to discover the cause of the pain so that the issue can be corrected before the patient becomes dependent on opioids. But not all doctors follow through on this important diagnosis. Instead, they allow the patient to refill prescriptions for the opioids until addiction becomes a serious, even life-threatening issue.

According to the Prescription Opioids and Heroin Research Report, nearly 80% of Americans using heroin reported that they were first misusing prescription opioids. It is clear that medical professionals in the United States need to be much more diligent in managing the opioids they are prescribing. If a doctor carelessly prescribes opioids to an at-risk patient, and doesn’t follow up to ensure proper use, that doctor may be liable for malpractice.

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Protecting Prescription Drug Error Victims' Rights in Washington

If the medical professional's negligence is responsible for a patient's injury, the physician, pharmacist, or hospital that committed the error can be held financially liable. Patients who suffer long-lasting physical injuries may also be able to receive compensation for pain and suffering and mental anguish.

For more information about how our Seattle prescription drug error attorneys may be able to help you, please call (888) 228-3860 for a free consultation.

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