Despite being highly preventable, medication errors happen all too frequently. According to the data, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration receives approximately 100,000 reports each year that cite prescription errors as the primary cause of harm. The damages listed in these claims vary considerably but are often catastrophic and include consequences such as addiction, permanent disability and wrongful death. Though many medication errors are accidents, the bottom line is that they should never occur in the first place. For this reason alone, the law holds medical professionals accountable for the damages they cause.
If you or a loved one is the victim of a prescription error, you do have legal rights. Exercising those rights is easier said than done, though. A skilled prescription error lawyer in Utah can help you build a solid case and take the steps necessary to recover the maximum amount of compensation for the harms you endured. Though you may feel overwhelmed at the moment, it is important to act fast, as medication error claims are time sensitive and intricate in nature. For the support and guidance you need at this difficult time in your life, contact Siegfried & Jensen today.
What are Prescription Errors?
A medication error, in the most basic sense of the term, is an error that occurs at some point during the administration or prescription process of medication. For a medication error to warrant legal action, it must result in harm to the patient and subsequent damages.
Types of Prescription Errors
Though prescription errors can occur in several ways, they typically fall into one of four categories. Each category indicates at which point during the prescription or administration process the mistake occurred:
- Prescription Errors: The prescription process is the first step in the overall medication administration process. Errors at this stage involve a doctor prescribing too much of a medication, too little of a medication, the wrong medication or a medication that adversely interacts with another medication that the patient currently takes. They may also involve prescribing the incorrect drug substitution.
- Dosage Errors: Dosage errors also occur in the prescription phase. However, dosage errors deserve their own category because they typically lead to addiction and overdose, which are two major problems that plague the prescription medication industry in recent decades.
- Filling Errors: Filling errors occur once a prescription reaches the pharmacy. Filling errors can occur when a pharmacist misreads a prescription, mislabels a bottle, or uses the wrong pill or medication to fill a bottle.
- Delivery Errors: Delivery errors occur in a hospital or medical settings. They occur when a nurse, doctor, anesthesiologist or some other medical professional administers the wrong drug or wrong dose to a patient. Delivery errors are among the most fatal type of medication errors that occur.
Why Do Medication Errors Occur?
This point cannot be stressed enough: Medication errors are 100% preventable. To really grasp the truth of this situation, it may help to consider the several factors that contribute to prescription mistakes.
Factors Associated With Healthcare Professionals and the Work Environment
Many prescription drug mistakes occur because of factors that are directly related to the healthcare professionals themselves and/or their work environment. Top factors that contribute to dangerous and deadly mistakes are as follows:
- Lack of training
- Inadequate drug knowledge or administration experience
- Lack of patient background knowledge
- Physical or emotional health issues
- Fatigue or burnout
- Poor communication between professionals and patients
- Failure to inform patients of medication risks or to provide proper instructions
- Ineligible writing
- Distractions and interruptions
- Time pressures and excessive workload
- Lack of standardized procedures and protocols
- Insufficient resources
- Issues with the workplace itself, such as ventilation, lighting or temperature
If any of these factors contributed to the medication error that caused your or a loved one’s injuries, the health organization and/or professional may assume liability for your damages.
Sometimes, prescription errors occur because of a patient’s unique characteristics or the complexity of a case. For instance, prescription errors often occur because of language barriers between a practitioner and the patient. They may also occur due to literacy issues on behalf of the patient or personality disorders that cause a patient to seek out higher doses of an addictive drug. When a patient’s case is complex and involves the management of several health conditions and/or the administration of several high-risk medications, the risk of prescription errors increases.
Regardless of patient factors that contribute to medication errors, healthcare professionals have a responsibility to consider all relevant factors before prescribing or administering medicines. If a failure to do so results in adverse outcomes, the law may hold the professional — not the patient — liable.
Factors Associated With Medications
In some instances of medication errors, there are issues with the medicine itself and not a healthcare professional or patient. For instance, incorrect labeling, packaging or naming of medications can all contribute to prescription errors. When contaminants or adulterants make their way into medicines at the manufacturing level, they may lead to a dangerous, if not deadly, concoction. If any such mistake causes patient harm, the manufacturer may assume legal liability.
Factors Associated With Task Management and Information Systems
In today’s digital landscape, medication errors can and often do occur at the digital level. For instance, providers may unwittingly overprescribe a medication when they forget to stop automatic reordering after so much time. Likewise, they may under-prescribe a medication by failing to authorize a digital prescription or forgetting to place an order. Inadequate interface design and lack of accurate or up-to-date patient records in a system may also contribute to medication errors.
Consequences of Medication Errors
The consequences of prescription errors range in severity and may include minor discomfort, hospitalization, disability or death. To understand the toll medication errors have on society, consider the following statistics:
- Prescription drug errors are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.
- Every year, as many as 9,000 Americans die because of prescription-related mistakes.
- Prescription errors contribute to at least one death per day in the U.S.
- Medication errors injure at least 1.3 million individuals each year.
- 30% of prescription drug-related injuries that occur in hospital settings each year are the direct result of medication errors.
- More than 7 million patients in the U.S. and one in 10 hospital patients is subject to prescription errors each year.
Medication errors do more than physically harm patients. They also take a toll on healthcare providers and the economy. For example, between 66% and 70% of providers claim to experience emotional distress, guilt and sorrow following an adverse prescription medication incident. Another 30% experience fear, 38% experience frustration and 40% claim to feel inadequate.
From an economic standpoint, medication errors cost the U.S. $21 billion across all care settings each year. The U.S. spends another $40 billion or more on victims of medication errors each year.
What To Do If You Are the Victim of a Medication Error
Medication errors can have disastrous consequences for patients and their families. If a prescription mistake caused you or a loved one harm, you may know this all too well. You may also wonder where you can go from here — how can you, it not undo the harms you endured, at least recover from them in the most comfortable way possible? Your answer to this question lies with an experienced prescription error lawyer.
A skilled attorney can assess your case, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and advise you as to what steps you should take going forward. If your lawyer believes you have a lawsuit, he or she will help you file a claim and take the steps necessary to hold the at-fault parties accountable. For legal support during this challenging time in your life, schedule your free initial consultation with Siegfried & Jensen today.