Medication Error

What is a medication error?

A medication error is any mistake made by a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other medical professional that involves giving medicine to a patient. It does not matter if the medicine is a prescription drug, a generic drug, or even an over-the-counter drug. If one of these parties commits a medication error and that error leads to an injury, the patient is entitled to compensation.  

Why do medication errors occur?

According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCCMERP), a medication error is a preventable mistake that leads to a patient taking or using medication inappropriately and ultimately, leads to the patient’s harm.

Here are some of the most common reasons that pharmacists make medication errors:

Pharmacist Cannot Read the Doctor’s Handwriting: Doctors are notorious for having bad handwriting. If you show up to the pharmacy with a handwritten prescription, it is possible that your pharmacist could misread what your doctor wrote and fill your prescription for the wrong drug.

Even though this may seem like an innocent mistake, the pharmacist will still be liable for any resulting injuries caused by their mistake because pharmacists have a duty to provide the correct medication. If the doctor’s handwriting is unclear, the pharmacist has a duty to double check with the doctor’s office before filling the prescription.

Inconsistent Use of Abbreviations: Similar to unclear handwriting, many doctors may abbreviate the name of the drug, the dosage, or the instructions on the prescription. This is a problem because different doctors may use different abbreviations for the same drug or the pharmacist may think the abbreviation stands for something else.

Different Drugs with Similar Sounding Names: It is often difficult to read and pronounce the official names of a prescription drug in the first place. But if there are two popular drugs on the market with similar sounding names, medication errors will undoubtedly occur.

For example, a few years ago several people were injured because of mix-ups between the drug Brintellix (an antidepressant) and the drug Brilinta (a blood-thinning medicine). The similar sounding names resulted in medication errors during prescribing and dispensing at pharmacies. Since these drugs are used for very different purposes, these medication errors resulted in some serious injuries.

The errors were so frequent, that in 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permitted Brintellix to change its brand name to Trintellix. 

While these medication mix-ups are common, they are no less serious than other prescription errors. 

Different Patients with Similar Names: If two customers have the same or similar-sounding names, medication errors can easily happen. For example, consider a father and son who share the same name. It would be easy for the pharmacist to give the wrong medication to the wrong person. However, the pharmacist always has a duty to provide the right customer with the right medication and will be responsible for any resulting injuries if she fails to do so. 

Patient May Have Prescriptions from More than One Doctor: If a patient has more than one doctor prescribing medications, it is up to the pharmacist to make sure that the two medications will not react with one another. If there is potential for negative effects, the pharmacist should not fill both prescriptions at the same time.

Pressure to Work Quickly: If there are 150 prescriptions waiting to be filled, the pharmacist and their team will undoubtedly feel pressure to move them through as fast as possible. But filling prescriptions quickly can lead to some serious mistakes, such as grabbing the wrong bottle off the shelf or failing to advise a customer of serious side effects.

Pharmacy Understaffing: Pharmacies are often understaffed. When this occurs, pharmacists are more likely to make mistakes. 

Human Nature: People make mistakes all the time, it is only human nature. Sometimes these mistakes are stress based, sometimes there is a legitimate reason why the mistake happened, and sometimes there is simply no excuse. No matter why the medication error occurred, if you suffered an injury as a result of the mix-up, you are entitled to compensation.

To find out more about suing a pharmacy for a medication error, contact the Fort Lauderdale pharmacy malpractice lawyers at Coffey Trial Law. We will review your case and consult with medical experts to determine the total value of your claim. Call us today at 954-541-3194 to set up your initial consultation.