What you should know about pharmacy and medication errors

Study after study has found that some the most common causes of death in the United States are related to healthcare events. One is medication errors, accounting for 7,000 to 9,000 deaths a year.

As a former hospital administrator, it’s confounding to me that the healthcare industry can’t consistently correct this common mistake.

On the other hand, with nearly 7,000 prescription and over-the-counter drugs available in America, along with innumerable supplements, it’s foreseeable pharmacists and prescribers could encounter occasional problems.

And one of the fundamental rules of healthcare is an error that’s foreseeable needs to be guarded against. That’s why the standard of care requires hospitals, pharmacies, and physician offices to have detailed policies and procedures in place and training for prescribers (doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners), nurses, and pharmacy staff on how to avoid medication errors.

From the many medication error cases that we’ve handled at Painter Law Firm, we’ve identified some common themes:

• A prescriber orders a medication that shouldn’t be given to a patient with a given medical condition or who’s already taken certain other drugs. This, of course, presumes that the patient provided the doctor or provider with a complete and accurate list of current and recent medications. It’s always important for patients to do so.

• A pharmacy fills and dispenses a prescription that shouldn’t be filled based on other drugs that the patient is already taken. The standard of care requires pharmacies to have warning systems in place that provide am extra layer of patient safety in this regard. By the way, this is a reason why I recommend using the same pharmacy for getting all your prescriptions filled—it’s more likely that drug-drug interactions and other issues will be triggered for the pharmacist’s review.

Drug makers issue two types of advisories on product labels or boxes. One is a contraindication, identifying circumstances when the drugs should never be given. The other is a warning, meaning that it should only be given with the doctor consciously weighs the risks versus benefits. Either of these should come up on a pharmacy warning system.

• A prescriber orders the wrong dosage of a medication, and the pharmacy doesn’t catch and correct it.

• A prescriber orders the correct medication or dosage, but the pharmacy fills and dispenses the wrong medication or the correct drug with the wrong dosage.

• Pharmacists don’t fulfill their obligation to provide patient counseling for new drugs. Texas law and the standard of care require pharmacies to offer counseling for new drugs. Many pharmacies seem to gloss over this and not really offer it unless a patient brings it up. This is a free service that can really make a difference, so we encourage all patients to take advantage of it. Use this time to ask how the drug works, what side effects to look out for, and ask if the drugs will cause any problems with your current medical conditions and other medications.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of a medication error in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.