According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting, approximately 1.3 million people are injured as a result of medication errors. In essence, a medication error is a preventable event that leads to the dissemination of an inappropriate or erroneous medication to a patient and which causes harm to the patient following ingestion. Medication errors occur in a number of ways including: improper dosage being administered or prescribed; utilizing the wrong method or route of medication administration (i.e., giving a drug orally when it should be given through an IV); and the prescription of or dispensing of the wrong medication by a health care provider or pharmacist. Unfortunately, because patients are generally trusting of their physicians and pharmacists and do not question what they are ingesting, many medication errors result in serious injury or even death.
Medication errors generally fall into one of several categories: prescription errors, dispensing errors, medication administration errors and/or patience compliance errors. Generally speaking, all hospitals and pharmacists should have in place organization systems for administering, ordering, and dispensing medications. For example, before dispensing a medication in a non-emergency setting, a pharmacist should review an original copy of the written medication order and participate in a self checking process in reading prescriptions, labeling the prescription and dosage calculations. Pharmacists should never guess or assume the intent of a confusing medication order. The physician and pharmacist must communicate in those situations to avoid an error. Medication prescribers, such as doctors, should evaluate the patient's total status before ordering a new medication so as to ensure that the new medication will not adversely interact with medications the patient is currently taking. Moreover, health care providers should work to ensure that the dosage level for each medication is correct and will not adversely affect the patient or the existing medications of the patient.
As experienced medical malpractice attorneys in Baltimore, Maryland, we routinely handle medication error cases against area hospitals and pharmacies. In many instances, these cases settle prior to trial because the liability of the physician or pharmacist is clear. For example, our office has successfully handled cases in which a pharmacist erroneously filled a patient's prescription for Tegretol extended release tablets (for seizures) with generic Tegretol (regular release). This caused our client to suffer unnecessary seizures and a complicated hospitalization course. In addition, we successfully resolved a case in which our client was prescribed medication to assist her with sleeping, but instead received blood pressure medication from the hospital pharmacy. Each of these cases was resolved prior to trial.