Errors in the prescribing and dispensing of medication are increasingly widespread problems that pose significant danger to consumers. The Food and Drug Administration defines a Medication Error as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medical use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer.”
According to a Johns Hopkins Study released in 2016, over 250,000 deaths per year in the United States are due to medical errors. This indicates that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. While there are many government oversight programs, such as the FDA MedWatch program and state administrative programs, medication errors continue to unnecessarily cause harm and death.
Injuries from medication errors may involve a wide variety of healthcare providers, including pharmacies, home infusion companies, nursing homes, hospitals, physicians, nurses, and even medication couriers. The researchers at Johns Hopkins concluded that “most errors represent systemic problems, including poorly coordinated care, fragmented insurance networks, the absence or underuse of safety nets, and other protocols,” as well as physicians that are not following standard practices.
Medication errors can happen in a wide variety of ways. It can be as simple as a pharmacy labeling a prescription bottle correctly then placing the wrong pills into the bottle. Sometimes medication errors occur because medical or pharmacy staff lack adequate training or oversight, or when the facility of pharmacy are understaffed. Errors may also happen where the patient has no chance to verify the correctness of the medication, such as when the medicine is administered intravenously or a patient is unconscious or mentally incompetent. Many mistakes result from communication errors between physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and patients.
Claims involving medication errors in Alabama, whether they involve a pharmacist, tech, nurse, physician, or other healthcare provider, are governed by the Alabama Medical Liability Act (AMLA). To prove a claim under the AMLA, an injured person must present substantial evidence through expert testimony that a healthcare provider failed to follow the standard or care or acted unreasonably. It is also necessary to present medical testimony that any substandard care probably caused physical harm or death.
There are certain steps you should take if you think you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a medication error. First, and most importantly, seek any medical treatment that you may need. Do not be afraid to seek a second opinion from a physician or healthcare provider that was not involved in the care resulting in the error. This will allow you to get an objective assessment of your injury. Second, take steps to preserve all relevant evidence. Maintain possession of any prescription bottles or packaging and documents that relate to the medication. Take photographs of any items that you may not be able to possess.
At Siniard, Timberlake & League, our attorneys have experience handling cases involving medication errors and we can help you preserve the necessary information and retain experts needed to prove your case. We do not charge a fee for an initial consultation, and in all cases there is no fee unless there is a recovery for our client. If you or a loved one have suffered an injury from a medication error and have questions about your legal rights, please contact us.