Pharmacy Negligence

No one counts pharmacy errors. There are no comprehensive counts of prescription errors. Many go undetected or unreported. No federal agency tracks them. On the state level, where pharmacy boards monitor pharmacies and pharmacists, only North Carolina requires that all significant errors be reported.  In Ohio no one keeps track of how many times a pharmacy fills out the wrong medication. No one may know the actual number of people harmed by pharmacy negligence in Ohio.

Academic studies offer rough estimates of the incidents of errors. A pharmacy that fills 250 prescriptions per day makes about 4 errors daily, according to a study posted by Auburn University researchers. A 2001 survey with more than 2,800 pharmacists by Texas Tech researchers found that 34% suggested that at least one of their patients per week was at risk for a mistake. According to the Auburn study, that would amount to 3.7 million each year based on the 2006 national prescription volume.

Corporate policies such as allowing or encouraging pharmacists to fill hundreds of prescriptions daily and rewarding fast work, can contribute to these errors. Large corporations are more concerned about an emphasis on speed and the reliance of technicians than accuracy. They provide financial bonuses to pharmacists for increasing prescription volumes per shift.

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. In a pharmacist error lawsuit, the attorney needs to prove that the person suing the pharmacist (and the pharmacy, hospital, etc.) was owed a duty of care.

Pharmacists have university degrees, and hold themselves out as having the training and ability to accurately fill prescriptions. Pharmacists are held to a high duty of care (standard of care) that requires absolute accuracy in order processing. In a pharmacist malpractice lawsuit, the attorney needs to prove that the pharmacist gave the patient the wrong medication, the wrong dose of the medication, the wrong directions for taking the medication or some other error. Pharmacist error can come in many forms, including the following:

  • 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, Toprol and Tegretol). 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. This still happens, and both the pharmacist and the prescribing doctor can be found liable in these cases.
  • A patient is given the wrong dose. 
  • A patient is given a medication that has been compounded incorrectly.  Some medications are compounded by pharmacies. A pharmacy error can occur if the medication has been compounded with a larger dosage of the medication than intended. For example, a case involving compounded colchicine where the dosage was 10 times the intended dosage. Three people died.
  • The patient is given the right drug but the wrong directions.

"Damages" in a pharmacist malpractice lawsuit usually involves compensation for medical expenses, loss of earnings, disability, pain and suffering, emotional distress and any other amount that would be considered necessary to compensate the patient for his or her losses. In rare cases, punitive damages may apply. Punitive damages are monetary amounts that are meant to punish the defendant(s) (the pharmacist, pharmacy, hospital, and any other party that may be liable).

There have been a number of lawsuits against Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid, Kroger, and Wal-Mart involving prescription errors, including wrong medication, wrong dose and mislabeling.

If you have received the incorrect dosage or the wrong medicine, please give our pharmacy negligence attorneys a call for a free consultation so we can help evaluate your claim.

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