In many situations, a medication error is more complicated than simply a case where the wrong drug is prescribed or administered. Drug interactions and side effects related to the patient’s condition, such as diabetes or pregnancy, can result in serious injury or death. It is the responsibility of the issuing doctor, hospital and staff to communicate and keep accurate records to prevent deadly medication errors like the following from taking place:
- Diagnostic error, such as misdiagnosis leading to an incorrect choice of therapy, failure to use an indicated diagnostic test, misinterpretation of test results, and failure to act on abnormal results.
- Equipment failure, such as defibrillators with dead batteries or intravenous pumps whose valves are easily dislodged or bumped, causing increased doses of medication over too short a period.
- Infections, such as nosocomial and post-surgical wound infections.
- Blood transfusion-related injuries, such as giving a patient the blood of the incorrect type.
- Misinterpretation of other medical orders, such as failing to give a patient a salt-free meal, as ordered by a physician.
Pharmacists have a duty of care to the people whose prescriptions they fill. This means that if you had a prescription filled by a pharmacist, that pharmacist owes you a duty of care. This is true whether the pharmacist is working at a drug store, hospital, clinic or any location. This duty of care extends to the pharmacy, hospital or clinic where the pharmacist was working at the time the prescription was filled. When a pharmacist makes a medication error while filling a prescription, there is a presumption of negligence.
Pharmacist error can come in many forms, including:
- The patient is given the wrong dose of medication.
- The patient was given another patient’s prescription.
- The patient was given a medication that had a name similar to the prescribed medication (for example, Flomax and Volmax). This is one of the most common reasons for pharmacist error involving the dispensing of the wrong medication.
- The pharmacist misread the prescribing doctor’s handwriting.
- (Both the pharmacist and the prescribing doctor can be found liable in these cases.)
- The patient is given the right drug but the wrong directions.