prescription negligence

Medication Errors Now Number 5 on Medical Malpractice Lawsuit List

Florida Medication Negligence Attorneys Lazarus and Lazarus

Medical malpractice is defined as any act or omission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient. Fortunately our U.S. Constitution allows victims to use the courts to seek compensation when they are injured by someone else’s carelessness, negligence, or malpractice. To do so, four legal elements must be proven: (1) a professional duty owed to the patient; (2) breach of such duty; (3) injury caused by the breach; and (4) resulting damages. Money damages, if awarded, typically take into account both actual economic loss and noneconomic loss, such as pain and suffering.

For many years the most common causes for victims to file medical malpractice lawsuits were improper diagnoses and actual injuries to patients but “medication errors” and specifically “pharmacy errors” have combined to now rank fifth on the list of most prevalent causes for the filing of lawsuits.

According to the National Institutes of Health: Close to 6,800 prescription medications and countless over-the-counter drugs are available in the United States.

Each year, in the United States alone, 7,000 to 9,000 people die due to a medication error. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of other patients experience but often do not report an adverse reaction or other complications related to a medication. The total cost of looking after patients with medication-associated errors exceeds $40 billion each year.

Medication errors happen in hospitals and they also happen when mistakes are made by pharmacists or pharmacy technicians at your local pharmacy.

The Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus has been helping people injured by medication errors since 1992 and we have special expertise dealing with the medical issues related to prescription medication mistakes. If you have questions we are always here to help by calling 954-356-0006.


Adverse Drug Events Soar as Number of People on Meds Reaches Record Number

Nearly Two-Thirds of American Adults Take 5 or More Medications

As 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 242,470,820 adults living in the United States, and a new study says that 62% are regularly taking five or more medications. That’s a lot of pills, inhalants, drops, elixirs, ointments, and suppositories.

When someone has a serious reaction, becomes ill, or dies because of a medication it could be an error by the patient, a mistake by the physician, a mix-up by the pharmacist, or a defect in the medication itself. The terminology for these events varies, but the government has decided the general term is Adverse Drug Events, or ADEs.

It’s important that when an ADE occurs, and it’s serious or life threatening, that the cause be determined. Sometimes it is negligence or malpractice on the part of the medical professional involved. These people and, in the case of pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies, companies, need to be held accountable to the victims who suffer as a result of their errors.

ADEs account for nearly 700,000 emergency department visits and 100,000 hospitalizations each year. ADEs affect nearly 5% of hospitalized patients, making them one of the most common types of inpatient errors; ambulatory patients may experience ADEs at even higher rates. Transitions in care are also a well-documented source of preventable harm related to medications.

Another term you may not be aware of is Polypharmacy—taking more medications than clinically indicated. This is likely the strongest risk factor for ADEs. Elderly patients, who take more medications and are more vulnerable to specific medication adverse effects, are particularly vulnerable to ADEs. Pediatric patients are also at elevated risk, particularly when hospitalized, since many medications for children must be dosed according to their weight. Other well-documented patient-specific risk factors include limited health literacy and numeracy (the ability to use arithmetic operations for daily tasks), both of which are independently associated with ADE risk.

This is a table that identifies potential places where ADEs can happen and safety strategies:

Prescribing •Avoid unnecessary medications by adhering to conservative prescribing principles
•Computerized provider order entry, especially when paired with clinical decision support systems
•Medication reconciliation at times of transitions in care
Transcribing •Computerized provider order entry to eliminate handwriting errors
Dispensing •Clinical pharmacists to oversee medication dispensing process
•Use of “tall man” lettering and other strategies to minimize confusion between look-alike, sound-alike medications
Administration •Adherence to the “Five Rights” of medication safety (administering the Right Medication, in the Right Dose, at the Right Time, by the Right Route, to the Right Patient)
•Barcode medication administration to ensure medications are given to the correct patient
•Minimize interruptions to allow nurses to administer medications safely
•Smart infusion pumps for intravenous infusions
•Patient education and revised medication labels to improve patient comprehension of administration instructions

Note that the largest section of the table is “Administration” which is where the patient and his or her caregivers are most-directly involved. This is where the drugs contact the patient.

If a patient is unable to properly count the pills and understand when to take them, then someone must help that person. Almost everyone has been aware of a family member or friend who is in this situation. Please try to help them or find them the help they need.

If a family member, other loved one, or friend is the victim of an ADE, it’s important to contact the right people for help. Medication errors that cause harm is an arena in the legal profession that requires experience and expertise due to the complexity of the pharmaceutical industry and the various medical professions.

The Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus has dedicated a substantial portion of their legal practice to pharmacy errors and negligence. Calling 954-356-0006 will put you in touch with a dedicated team of legal professionals who can help.