The FDA estimates that 1.3 million people a year are injured from prescription medicine mistakes. As the U.S. population ages and more prescriptions are dispensed, that number will rise unless better safety systems are put in place and followed.
With technology as advanced as it is, you might expect pharmacy errors to be relics of the past. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. At pharmacies across the country, patients receive the wrong prescriptions more often than you think.
How Do Pharmacy Errors Happen?
Preventable medical errors are rampant in the healthcare industry and pharmacies are no exception. When doctors’ offices call in prescriptions instead of submitting them through digital portals, it’s very easy for the pharmacy staff to misunderstand or incorrectly record the medication and dosage.
Alternatively, a pharmacist might misread a prescription, or they might miss a contraindication with other medicines the patient is taking. There are a surprising number of commonly confused drug names that lead to these errors. For instance, Adderall and Inderal sound quite similar, but one treats ADHD and the other is prescribed for high blood pressure. Or there’s Brintellix, an antidepressant that’s often mistaken for the blood thinner Brilinta.
There’s also the issue of quality control. Does the pharmacy have procedures and systems in place for preventing errors? How competent is their staff (including pharmacy techs) and how closely do they supervise staff and enforce safety policies? If a pharmacy doesn’t hold its staff to strict standards, errors are more likely to occur.
Every company wants to churn out as many prescriptions as they can with as little employee cost as possible. When pharmacies put profits over safety, patients can be harmed.
Additionally, people make mistakes when they’re overworked, which happens often in pharmacies. You may have a group of qualified pharmacists, but their performance will drop when they’re pushed to their limits working long hours and covering the duties of two or three people. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of running pharmacies as businesses. Every company wants to churn out as many prescriptions as they can with as little employee cost as possible. When pharmacies put profits over safety, patients can be harmed.
What Are the Consequences of Pharmacy Dispensing Errors?
The harm caused by pharmacy mix-ups is two-fold: (1) the patient is taking an unknown medication not prescribed to them by a medical professional or a dosage not prescribed; (2) the patient is not taking the medication they were prescribed.
Sometimes the patient catches the error before they take the medication. Even if they take a couple of the pills, they notice the mistake quickly enough without suffering any adverse effects.
But not everyone notices the mix-up, particularly elderly or disabled patients, as they’re trusting that their pharmacists got it right. Here’s why this is dangerous: The erroneous prescription hasn’t been cross-checked against their other medications to ensure that it won’t cause a negative reaction, nor has it been vetted against the patient’s allergy history.
Even if there are no contraindications or allergies, the patient is taking a medicine that wasn’t prescribed for them. This means they’re not receiving the treatment their doctors determined they needed.
We have seen many careless mistakes in our practice that have practically cost our clients their lives. IN some cases, a patient may be given a mediation they are allergic to and can have a severe emergency life threatening reaction. Other examples, may be a person who received the wrong prescription and therefore, they were not receiving the life saving medicines they needed, such as blood pressure medication. Another example are instances where the dosage is wrong so that the right medicine is given to the patient, but in a much higher dose than would be safe.
What to Do If You Think You Have a Pharmacy Error Case
You have undoubtedly heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” That definitely applies to pharmacy error cases. If you or a loved one received a prescription that was wrong, it is important to photograph the bottle, the label and the contents. Make a note of when you took the medicine, how many doses and the ill effects you suffered.
If a potential client comes to us with a prescription that they never should have been given, the photographic evidence provides a strong starting point for our investigation.
Do You Need a Pharmacy Error Lawyer?
If you did not require hospitalization or suffer serious harm, you may be able to work things out with the pharmacy. Most large pharmacy chains have claim handlers devoted to paying out small claims for errors that did not lead to serious injury or death. However, if you find yourself in a situation where serious injury or death occurred as a result of a pharmacy error, you would be well advised to seek legal representation.
Rest assured that the pharmacy will be represented by skilled claims handlers or attorneys who are incentivized to pay as little to resolve the claim as possible. In the case of a serious or fatal injury, you would be well advised to “level the playing field” by having someone skilled in this area to be your advocate. In our experience , victims who represent themselves are at a disadvantage.
Bringing an attorney into the discussion changes the game. The pharmacy knows it won’t be able to low-ball you if you have a lawyer, so you’re far more likely to receive a better number than what they offered you directly. An attorney will work up a full damage model on your behalf to ensure that you recover full value for your damages.
If you find yourself in a situation where serious injury or death occurred as a result of a pharmacy error, you would be well advised to seek legal representation.
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a pharmacy error, one of the most important things you can do from the beginning is preserving the evidence. Keep all of the packaging, pill bottles, documentation, and pills. All of this is critical evidence because the pharmacy will want to see photographs of what was dispensed so they can compare it against their records.
Then contact a medical malpractice attorney. In Texas, pharmacies and laboratories are considered healthcare providers and are therefore subject to medical malpractice law. You want to work with a lawyer who is well-versed in these cases and has a record of success in building them.
When we take on a pharmacy error case, we evaluate it by asking what a jury would do with these facts. That allows us to determine the best strategy for developing and negotiating your case. You are far more likely to receive the damages you’re owed if you work with a veteran medical malpractice team than if you try to go it alone.
Hiring A Dallas Pharmacy Error Lawyer
The attorneys at Van Wey Law are very familiar with pharmacy error cases. In situations where the mix-up led to a serious injury or death, it is in your best interest to speak to an experienced Dallas Pharmacy Error Lawyer. Contact the team at Van Wey Law for a free consultation to see if we can help.