Each time you take prescription medication, you place great trust in the skill, knowledge and professionalism of your doctor and pharmacist. Most of the time all goes well. But when it doesn’t, the consequences can be tragic. Over 1.5 million people in the U.S. are injured by prescription-related mistakes each year. Of these, approximately 7,000 die.
How Do Mistakes Happen?
Prescription mistakes can happen in multiple ways. A doctor or nurse practitioner may write the wrong medication name or dosage on your prescription. The pharmacist may misunderstand the prescription and give you the wrong medication or dosage. Mistakes also occur when:
- the doctor, nurse or pharmacist fails to consider potential negative interactions the prescription may have with other medications you’re taking;
- the doctor, nurse or pharmacist confuses drugs with similar-sounding names and gives you the wrong one;
- the doctor, nurse or pharmacist fails to identify your drug allergies;
- the doctor or nurse prescribes too much medication;
- the pharmacist gives you another person’s medication;
- the pharmacist correctly labels your prescription, but gives you the wrong medication.
What kind of injuries may arise from a prescription mistake?
Prescription mistakes can lead to devastating injuries. These include allergic reactions, birth defects, irreversible brain damage, blood clots and stroke, digestive problems, heart damage, kidney malfunction, liver damage, muscle injury and death.
Who is at the highest risk for suffering from a prescription mistake?
People over the age of 65 and children are at greatest risk for being injured by a prescription mistake. Seniors tend to take more medication and have more doctors than other adults. This increases their risk of being over-medicated or suffering from negative drug interactions.
Children are at greater risk because their bodies are still developing and metabolize medication differently than adults do. Moreover, most medications are not formulated for children, and doctors often must prescribe a dosage based on the child’s height and weight. This imprecise method can lead to serious errors.
How can I avoid prescription mistakes?
- When your doctor gives you a prescription, ask the doctor the name of the drug, the dosage and how often you must take it. Write the information down. This way, you don’t have to rely on interpreting the doctor’s handwriting on the prescription itself.
- Educate yourself on the medication by researching it online and asking your doctor about the risks.
- Before leaving the pharmacy, read the label on your prescription to ensure that your name is correct. You should also confirm that the name of the medication and dosage amount corresponds with the information your doctor gave you.
- Examine your medication before taking it. If it looks different than usual or the name on the pill is different than expected, don’t take it without first consulting your health care provider.
- Inform your doctor and pharmacists of all the medications you are taking, including other prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbal medications, and vitamins.
What should I do if I have been injured by a prescription error?
If you have suffered injury from a prescription error, consult a Massachusetts medical malpractice lawyer. A Massachusetts lawyer experienced in prescription mistake cases can investigate your claim and determine whether your case is viable. If so, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries, including: medical and hospitalization bills, lost wages and income, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and costs related to home nursing help needed during recovery.
Peter Ventura is a Massachusetts medical malpractice lawyer dedicated to helping people in the Massachusetts area recover compensation for prescription mistakes injuries. Call for a free consultation today at 508-755-7535.