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The Basics of Prescription Errors

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on October 20, 2018

It’s a running joke that doctors have the most atrocious penmanship around. But it’s no laughing matter when illegible handwriting ends up injuring or even killing a patient.

Prescription errors, a subset of medication errors, are an unfortunate reality of medicine, and often a form of medical malpractice. And they are not uncommon. An Institute of Medicine report approximated that between “44,000 and 98,000 persons die in U.S. hospitals annually” as a direct result of prescription errors. Whether it’s chicken-scratch handwriting or hitting the wrong key on a computer keyboard, any small mistake with medication can cause great harm.

When we’re in the hospital, or when we’re picking up our prescriptions from the pharmacy, we’re in the hands of medical professionals. But doctors and pharmacists make mistakes on the job, just like everyone else. Unfortunately, unlike a bank teller or grocery clerk, their mistakes end up costing human lives.

The most tragic thing about prescription errors is that they are preventable with proper care. If you or someone you love has been injured due to a prescription error, please call Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., at (888) 228-3860 to discuss your case. We can investigate your claim and work to get you the compensation you deserve.

Types of Prescription Errors

There are many reasons for prescription errors; from poorly designed computer systems to order drugs to a pharmacist’s lack of knowledge about the drugs you’re taking and how they might interact.

According to MDU Journal, “The most common drug-related errors were prescribing a drug to a patient with a known allergy, in particular penicillins; prescribing the wrong drug (due to them having similar names, for example, such as mefloquine and malarone); or prescribing the wrong dose of the drug (for example a twice-weekly drug being prescribed daily).”

The people who depend on a daily dose of medication for their health conditions tend to have higher chances of a prescription mishap taking place. Because their medication is crucial to their health, any error can end up in a fatality.

The most common prescription errors are due to:

  • Lack of knowledge: A patient might be prescribed the wrong dosage or the wrong medication, which might interact with other drugs they are taking.
  • Lack of patient records: Inadequate patient records lead to frequent prescription errors. A physician failing to check for known drug allergies can result in a big problem.
  • Bad communication: A doctor’s bad handwriting, confusing verbal directions, or a mistakenly placed decimal can all lead to prescription errors.

Can You Avoid a Prescription Error?

Not entirely; because doctors and pharmacists are responsible for prescriptions. If you’re checked in to a hospital, you have even less control over what happens to your health. However, there are some things you can do to help avoid a prescription error:

  • Know your medication: It’s easy to put our trust in the hands of professionals, but unfortunately, that makes it easier for prescription errors to occur. If we know what we’re taking, why we’re taking it, what it does, what it looks like, and what it should and should not be taken with, we have fewer chances of being harmed when a mistake is made.
  • If your medication looks, tastes, smells, or feels different in any way, don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist why. Don’t blindly take anything you’re given.
  • If you’re already taking medication, inform your medical provider so that they can determine whether anything they prescribe you might interact with your current medication.
  • If you experience any strange or worrisome side effects, call your doctor immediately.
  • If your medication doesn’t seem to be doing its job, contact your doctor/pharmacist and have them figure out why.
  • Always double check what your doctor says with what is written on the prescription.

When a Prescription Goes Wrong, Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of medication is medical malpractice when it causes serious injury to a patient. Any healthcare provider responsible for injuring a patient needs to be held accountable for his or her actions.

At Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., we are happy to fight for anyone who has been injured due to a pharmaceutical error. We will determine if your medical provider, the pharmaceutical company, or your pharmacist is at fault.

You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, your physical and emotional suffering, as well as future medical care. If you or someone you love has been affected by a prescription error, please call our Seattle medical malpractice attorney at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., at (888) 228-3860 to discuss your case in a free consultation.

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