When most people think of medical malpractice they think of doctors and surgeons. Some people even think of nurses.
Errors made by surgeons and incorrect diagnoses are indeed common cases of medical practice. However, although most people don’t realize this, pharmacists can also be sued for medical malpractice.
Pharmacists are an important part of our healthcare system and are directly involved in patient care. Pharmacists do much more than dispense pills.
Pharmacy malpractice can result in serious harm and even death of patients.
Keep reading to learn more about how and why pharmacists can be sued for pharmacy malpractice.
Pharmacy malpractice is a branch of medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider fails to adhere to accepted standards of care and causes harm to a patient. Medical malpractice claims can be difficult to prove.
For medical malpractice to be established, three things must be proven.
Negligence: Your must be able to prove that the health care provider, or pharmacist in this case, provided treatment that breached their duty to adhere to the standard of care.
The test to determine the accepted standard of care is what other reasonable health care providers in a similar circumstance would do.
Injury: You must also be able to prove that the actions or inaction of the pharmacist-led to actual injury to the patient.
This can be the hardest to prove as there’s a fair chance you were already in poor health. It’s advisable to work with a pharmacy malpractice lawyer who can use their medical expertise to establish an injury connection.
Statute of Limitations: Finally, you must bring your claim within the time limit established by your state.
Depending on your state. you have between 1-7 years to file a lawsuit.
State law also determines the scope of a pharmacist’s duties. In some states, a pharmacist is only responsible for carrying out the orders of a doctor. Other states open pharmacists up to being sued for malpractice if they make a mistake.
Examples of Pharmacy Malpractice
The following are 3 common examples of mistakes pharmacists make that cause injury to patients. These are all examples of malpractice that can be established in court to provide compensation to the patient.
1. Incorrect Medication
This is one of patients’ biggest concerns with their medication, and for good reason.
When a pharmacist dispenses medication that is different from what the doctor ordered, they can be found negligent if a patient is injured.
Common examples of this include incorrect medications, incorrect dosages, and incorrect number of pills. Pharmacists might try to blame manufacturers for their dispensing errors, but the fact is that they should have found the error before giving the medication to the patient.
Pharmacists can cause injury by giving too high of doses to a patient, perhaps by mistaking the unit of measurement. Pharmacists can also give out too many or too few pills.
They should be checking the work of their techs before the medication is dispensed to a patient.
Finally, they can also give out the wrong medication entirely. Many pills look alike to patients, especially elderly patients who often do not read the labels on their medication themselves.
Patients are advised to take their medication in a well lit place, while wearing their glasses, and to adhere to the dosing instructions provided. When a pharmacist makes a mistake that a patient is incapable of catching, the consequences can be deadly.
2. Failure to Review Medical History
When a patient receives a new medication or a dose change, the pharmacist dispensing the medication should review the patient’s medical history.
Pharmacists are a check for doctors who might also make an error when prescribing a medication. Doctors are focused on identifying and diagnosing conditions, while pharmacists are experts on medication.
Doctors may overlook patient allergies, so pharmacists should be looking out for these. Pharmacists should refuse to fill any prescriptions that they believe will cause an adverse reaction in the patient.
When pharmacists see a new patient, they should ask for the patient’s medical history and a list of any allergies. Failure to do so can constitute negligence if the patient becomes injured.
3. Failure to Identify Interactions
Another common way for pharmacists to cause harm to their patients is by failing to screen for potential drug interactions.
Many patients take multiple medications. In most states, pharmacists have a legal duty to screen for interactions between drugs prescribed to a patient. Adverse reactions and side effects can commonly occur when combining medications and doctors do not always know this when prescribing medication, though they should.
Pharmacists can be found negligent for failing to inform patients of the risks of taking two or more contraindicated medications together if they are injured as a result.
Look Out for Yourself
When you visit a pharmacy, you likely trust that the pharmacist behind the counter is a professional who will do everything they can to protect your health.
Unfortunately, pharmacies are often understaffed and overly reliant on technology and pharmacy malpractice occurs as a result. Pharmacy staff use computer systems to automatically identify concerns about medications but this doesn’t always get communicated to the patient.
It’s important to be your own advocate. When you are prescribed a new medication, ask questions and voice your concerns to your doctor and your pharmacist.
Double check that your pills match the description on the bottle. If you are injured as a result of pharmacy malpractice, contact an attorney.
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