Prescription errors and medication mistakes are as common in Central New York, including Syracuse, Auburn and Geneva, New York, as anywhere else in the United States. Every year they cause about a million deaths and injuries in the U.S. Prescription-error lawyers in New York, and everywhere for that matter, know that there are generally two possible culprits: Either the doctor prescribes the wrong drug or dosage or it’s the pharmacist’s fault for filling the wrong dosage or dispensing the wrong medication. Either way, it constitutes medical malpractice and the victim has a right to seek compensation against the doctor or pharmacist for the injuries suffered, or, the family of a deceased victim has a right to seek compensation for the wrongful death of their loved one.
Here’s a recent example of a prescription malpractice lawsuit: The Detroit News reports that the family of a man who was “issued a lethal dose of a chemotherapy drug” by Rite Aid pharmacists sued the company. The patient, who suffered from melanoma, was instructed to take 14 capsules per day of Temodar, ten times the usual dose, and double a fatal dose. In an out-of-court settlement, the doctors who prescribed the dose admitted the error (as well they should!).
In fact, prescription errors are one of the most common types of medical malpractice. What causes a prescription mistake? The most common causes are:
• Physician’s handwriting is not clear or is illegible (physicians have infamously bad handwriting, but this is INEXCUSABLE on something as important as a prescription)
• Physician simply wrote down the wrong drug or doses • The pharmacist misread the drug or doses • Manufacturer or pharmacist placed look-alike packages in a row.
• Alphabetical arrangements put sound-alike products together.
• Pharmacist mixed your name up with another customer’s • Telephone misunderstandings: The pharmacist might not hear the doctor correctly over the phone, and as a result, writes down the wrong drug or doses.
• Allergies not taken into account: Some patients have known allergies to certain drugs, yet are given these medications by mistake, or because no one asked the patient about his or her allergies.
• Contraindications not considered: Some medications cannot be taken with other drugs. While manufacturers must list the known contraindications, sometimes these are not carefully followed.
Here are some tips on how to protect yourself from medication errors:
• LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR as he prescribes medication to you. Write down what he says about the name of the drug, the doses, and the purpose.
• READ THE LABEL CAREFULLY when your pharmacist hands you the drug. Check for the name of the drug, the condition it is prescribed for, and ensure the name of the drug is the same the doctor told you he was prescribing for you. Don’t assume it’s the same drug with a different, generic name. Ask the pharmacist about any discrepancies between the name of the drug you are given and the name the doctor told you.
• DON’T SIGN WITHOUT READING. The paper the pharmacist pushes across the counter at you — the one you have been signing automatically – essentially says that you agree that you have been given the information you need. Don’t sign it without making sure you understand your prescription.
• EXAMINE THE DRUG. Does it look like what you expected? If it’s a refill, it should look the same as the previous batch. If not, ask the pharmacist.
• MAKE AND KEEP LISTS of all medications you are taking, including the dosage, etc.
• RECITE YOUR ALERGIES to any doctor when prescribing new medication to you.
• BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR SIDE EFFECTS. If you feel “funny”, strange, or sick after taking a new medication, call your doctor immediately.