A physician prescribes medication to cure an illness or reduce the effects of a patient's illness or condition. Medication is often the first line of medical intervention to treat physical or psychiatric disease. Unfortunately, medication error is a leading cause of patient harm.
Medication errors occur routinely both in the hospital environment and at home. A medication error can also occur at different steps in the treatment process.
Types of Medication Errors in Newfoundland & Labrador
Medication errors are many and varied. Some of the common errors are listed below.
- A doctor may prescribe the wrong medication or dosage.
- The doctor may may not clearly communicate to the patient warning signs of adverse side-effects of dangerous side-effects.
- There may not be sufficient follow-up with the patient to determine if
- there are adverse drug-drug interactions (i.e., a physician and pharmacist should be aware of the types of prescription and non-prescription drugs that patient is taking and warn the patient accordingly if there are possible adverse effects).
- the medication is causing adverse effects (e.g., the cumulative effect of taking some medications can damage certain internal organs over time).
- the patient is responding appropriately to the medication.
- The prescription may be poorly communicated to the pharmacist.
- The pharmacist may misunderstand the doctor's prescription for the type, dosage or frequency of medication.
- The pharmacist may dispense the incorrect medication.
- The pharmacist may dispense an incorrect dosage of the medication.
- The pharmacist may provide incorrect advice concerning the use of the medication.
- The pharmacist may may not clearly communicate to the patient warning signs of adverse side-effects of dangerous side-effects.
Any Medical or Healthcare Professional-Made Errors
- Incorrect advice to patient including: when to take medication; frequency of taking medication; when to discontinue taking medication.
- There may be an error in the amount or dosage of medication or in the set-up of medication equipment in a hospital or other medical facility.
- Medication may be administered inappropriately (e.g., intravenously or intrathecally) by nurses or other healthcare providers.
- Equipment or devices that deliver medicine may malfunction.
- A manufacturer may err in the manufacture, testing or advisories concerning medication. Claims against manufacturers are extremely difficult to prove and are best pursued through class action litigation. Geoff Aylward, Q.C. was lead Newfoundland and Labrador counsel in the national class action against Merck for heart attacks associated with VIOXX.
Examples of Medication Error Consequences
- Failure to prescribe the correct or therapeutic level of a medication is known as underuse. In such cases, recovery may be prevented or delayed.
- Overuse occurs when a larger dose or stronger medication is used to treat an illness that can be treated with a lesser dose or less potent medication. Overuse can have a toxic damaging effect on body organs.
- Detrimental medication errors can cause adverse drug events (ADEs). Such events can prevent or delay the recovery from an illness and in more severe cases cause a separate illness or even death.
If you have been injured as a result of a prescription drug error, you may be entitled to monetary compensation in Newfoundland and Labrador. Geoff Aylward, a reputable and experienced lawyer can provide effective representation on prescription error claims. Geoff Aylward will review the facts and circumstances of your case and will develop a legal strategy to help you obtain the monetary compensation that you need and deserve.
Causes of Medication Error
Situations that can cause a medical professional to make a medication error are many, but below are a few common possible scenarios:
- Failure to take adequate patient history.
- Incorrect diagnosis and failure to take reasonable follow-up measures to verify original diagnosis.
- A physician may not have sufficient knowledge of the indications and contraindications for the use of a medication.
- Failure to identify allergic reactions.
- Failure to maintain proper records especially when patients are on multiple medications.
- Miscommunication between care providers resulting from ambiguous abbreviations, illegible or unclear directions as to the type of medication, the dosage and usage.
- Failure to maintain appropriate level of communication between the healthcare provider and the patient.
Proving Prescription Error Claims in Newfoundland & Labrador
The patient must prove that the healthcare provider owed a duty of care towards the patient, breached the expected standard of care and that the breach of duty caused the patient to suffer harm. It is a given that health care providers owe a duty of care towards patients. If a non-patient consumes a medication, there may not be a duty of care. In some instances a duty of care may be owed if the medication is taken by a child and adequate measures have not been taken to secure or child-proof the medication. The standard of care is based upon the healthcare provider applying the same standard as would another health care provider with the same degree of education, training and skill at the time of the adverse drug event. 20 years ago it was not commonplace to childproof medications. Today common practice requires that reasonable measures be taken in packaging and dispensing to childproof medications.
The patient must prove the type and degree of harm caused by the prescription error. Patients often suffer the very harm which is aggravated by a prescription error. A patient who suffers a heart condition may experience a heart attack while on a heart medication. Proving however that an error in the type, dose or frequency of medication caused the heart attack may be quite difficult if the patient was already susceptible to a heart attack. The type of error can be critical in these cases. If the wrongly prescribed medication had known serious adverse side-effects for heart patients, the claim will obviously be much easier to prove.
The patient must prove that it was more likely than not that the medication error caused the harm suffered by the patient. It is not sufficient to prove in an individual case that the medication error made it 30 percent more likely that the patient would suffer injury or delayed recovery.
Prescription Drug Error Injuries
Some of the most serious injuries from prescription errors include:
- Heart attack
- Respiratory problems
- Organ failure or damage
- Brain injury
- Neurological injury
- Wrongful death.
Protect Yourself from Prescription Errors in Newfoundland & Labrador
Below are some measures you can take to reduce the likelihood that you will suffer a prescription error or the effects from a prescription error,
- Inform your doctor of your personal and medical family history. See the same family doctor.
- Ensure you understand the reason for the prescription, and leave your doctor's office knowing the type of medication, the dose and frequency of use.
- Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about whether the medication dispensed is the one prescribed by your doctor and that the instructions for the use of the medication are the same.
- Ask your doctor and pharmacist about adverse side-effects of the medication.
- Ensure your doctor and pharmacist are aware of all of the medications, including non-prescription medications and herbal medications and supplements that you are taking. This is especially important if you add an additional medication or supplement or have changed doctors or pharmacists.
- If there is any question about your medication profile, obtain a printout from your pharmacist and write down the over-the-counter medications, natural herbs, or supplements that you are taking.
- Ask your doctor when you should seek medical attention or discontinue the medication if you are concerned about adverse side-effects.
- Be especially careful during the first week or month that you are on a new medication, dose or frequency. Report any unforeseen symptoms to your doctor. If the manufacturer of the medication has changed, you should also be mindful of changes during the first week and month. Generally a change in the manufacturer may be associated with a change in the effectiveness of the medication rather than the risk of harm from the medication.
- If you are unsure about the questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist or whether you will remember the answers, bring a friend or relative with you for assistance.
- Do not miss follow-up appointments with your doctor.
- Comply with all instructions for the use of medication.
- Do not discontinue the medication without discussing your decision to discontinue the medication with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Read the package inserts, in particular when you are taking a medication for the first time.
- Using a single pharmacy for prescription and over the counter medication so the pharmacist will be aware of all of the medications that you are taking.
- Do not randomly mingle separate medications together.
- If appropriate, organize medication in pill boxes for the purpose of ensuring that the right medications and doses are being taken at the right times during the day.
- When travelling, especially across international borders, bring your medications in the original containers that were used to dispense the medications and bring a current printout of your medications. This will assist your travelling across borders and be of particular value if you require medical assistance while travelling.
- Advise the pharmacist if you are having difficulty in organizing your medications or remembering when to take medications. The pharmacist can package your medication to reduce errors that may accidentally be made by you in taking medications.
Resourceful, Compassionate Lawyer in Newfoundland & Labrador for Representation on Prescription Error Claims
An experienced Newfoundland and Labrador medical malpractice lawyer will have all of the necessary medical knowledge and legal expertise to aggressively advocate for you and assist you with proving the legal elements of your case. Geoff Aylward, Q.C. will discuss the facts and circumstances of your individual case, gather and investigate relevant evidence, negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, and if necessary, represent you in court.
Geoff Aylward, Q.C. will provide effective advice and representation in seeking benefit payment or compensation. Contact lawyer Geoff Aylward for prescription error claim representation today either online or at 709-726-7260.