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What to Do If Pharmacy Gives Wrong Dosage?

Even just the slightest mistake in your prescription can cause severe injury or--in worst cases--even death.

Pharmacists and other health care workers are obligated to observe safe medication practices, including dispensing the correct medicine at the right dosage. Giving the wrong prescription medication or the wrong dose to a patient can cause serious injury, negative drug-to-drug interactions, and life-threatening consequences like overdosing.

pharmacy-shelves-with-wrong-medication-dosage

What if your pharmacist gave you the wrong dose? Or what if they printed the wrong directions on the prescription bottle? If your pharmacy committed medication errors, leading to serious health complications, you might be able to take legal action against the health care professional at fault.

The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, have experience dealing with cases based on pharmaceutical errors. Call our pharmacy error lawyers at (888) 424-5757 or fill out this contact form to schedule a free consultation today.

Pharmacists’ Obligation to Patients

Pharmacists owe all patients a professional duty of care. Their duties include:

Most patients trust their doctors and pharmacists to give them proper medication every time. Hence, pharmacy errors usually go undetected until it is too late. Nevertheless, patients are not responsible for verifying the dosage of their prescriptions, and most do not have the knowledge to do so in the first place.

If your doctor or pharmacist fails to uphold this standard of care, you can sue them for medical malpractice under personal injury law.

Most Common Pharmacy Errors

According to the Institute of Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), here are the most common pharmacy errors that occurred in 2016:

  • Dispensing the wrong prescription: A pharmacist dispenses a medication completely different from the one written on the patient’s prescription. This mistake may occur due to negligence or pure accident.
  • Giving the correct medication but in the wrong dosage: A pharmacist dispenses the right medicine but in the wrong dose, either lower or higher than the prescription.
  • Dispensing someone else’s prescription to another patient: A pharmacist gives the wrong medicine to a patient with a similar name.
  • Failing to consult the prescribing physician about illegible handwriting: If the writing on a prescription is unclear, the pharmacist must call the doctor to verify.
  • Mistaking the name of one drug for another: A pharmacist confuses a drug name for a similar-sounding one.
  • Failing to screen a patient for drug-to-drug interactions: A pharmacist should determine if a patient’s medicine will interact with other medications and counsel the patient accordingly.
  • Filling prescriptions with the wrong instructions: A pharmacist or pharmacy clerk puts inaccurate or incomplete instructions on the patient’s medication container.
  • Committing a measurement error due to inaccurately calibrated scales: A pharmacy worker creates a compounded drug with an inaccurate dose due to inaccurately calibrated equipment. Compounded drugs are medications specifically prepared and mixed for the patient based on the physician’s prescription.

The Risks of Medication Errors

When these pharmacy errors occur, patients risk developing adverse effects from being given the wrong drug or an incorrect dosage. Any type of pharmacy negligence can lead to:

  • An allergic reaction
  • Overdose
  • The patient’s illness becoming worse
  • Ineffectiveness of the medication
  • Negative medication interactions
  • Unnecessary side effects
  • Temporary or permanent physical disability

At the very least, you may experience no relief from your illness from being given the wrong medications. However, in worst cases, you may suffer a life-threatening reaction to the drug, such as anaphylactic shock or even an overdose.

Real-Life Examples of Dispensing Errors

In 2014, a Michigan family went to Walgreens to fill out their son’s prescription for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since the information on the bag was correct, the mother gave it to her son, assuming that the contents matched the label.

Soon enough, the teenager started exhibiting strange behavior, suddenly becoming “extremely feisty and bitey and moody.” Then, they discovered that the pills inside the bottle were Montelukast pills, the generic version of asthma medication Singulair.

Another prescription error made headlines in 2021 when a pharmacist dispensed antidepressants instead of the patient’s regular water retention medication. The victim’s son claims that the pharmacist told him they mixed up the two similar-sounding drugs, fluoxetine (antidepressant) and furosemide (high blood pressure medication).

The pharmacy error led to the patient’s death caused by gastrointestinal hemorrhaging.

Potential Causes of Pharmacy Errors

Most prescription errors are caused by human error. Commonly cited causes include:

  • Excess pressure: When too many customers line up at the pharmacy counter, pharmacists are pressured to work as quickly as possible. As a result, there is less time to double-check patients’ medication, counsel each patient, and concentrate on each prescription.
  • Similar drug names: A similar-sounding drug name can easily lead to a pharmacy error. Examples of similar-sounding drugs include Celexa and Celebrex; Lamisil and Lamictal; Lasix and Losec, etc.
  • Patient misidentification: In some cases, patients are given medication meant for someone else with the same first and last name. This mistake often occurs in large pharmacies with a high volume of customers.
  • Clerical errors: Some medication errors arise from clerical mistakes, such as inaccurate computer coding or making incorrect selections on electronic records.
  • Poor pharmacist-doctor communication: Some overworked pharmacists don’t have time to consult prescribing physicians about dosage and instructions before dispensing prescriptions to patients.

Medical Setting Errors

In some cases, pharmacists are not directly at fault for medication errors. Here are other possible scenarios that can cause a pharmacy error in the medical setting:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Laboratory error
  • Giving a child a drug meant for adults, and vice versa
  • Illegible handwriting on the prescription
  • Automated medicine dispensing equipment malfunction
  • Failure to account for potential drug interactions

How to Know If You Have Been Given the Wrong Prescription

Pharmacy errors are not always obvious, especially if you’re taking a medication for the first time. To avoid taking the wrong medication, here are some signs to look out for:

  • The name and dosage on the label differ from your doctor’s prescription
  • The pills look different from what you usually take
  • You experience unfamiliar side effects after taking the medication
  • You experience no relief from your medical condition even after a few days of taking the drug

If you have already taken the wrong medication before realizing the pharmacy committed a mistake, stop taking it and call your doctor right away. If you are experiencing severe side effects, head to the nearest emergency room for immediate treatment.

What to Do If Pharmacy Gives the Wrong Medication Dosage

Pharmacists are fully responsible for preventing medication and dosage errors before dispensing prescription drugs to patients. If your pharmacist gives you the wrong prescription or the correct prescription, but in the wrong dose, they may be held liable for damages.

First things first, here’s what you need to do if you are given the wrong medication or wrong dose:

  • Call your doctor right away
  • Save the unused medicine in its original container
  • Save the bag and receipt
  • Refuse to give a recorded statement to anyone before contacting your lawyer
  • Head to the pharmacy to clarify the pharmacy error
  • Notify your insurance company about the error if you purchased the medication on insurance

Filing a Medication Error Lawsuit

Whether you are given the wrong prescription or the wrong dosage, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the healthcare provider at fault. Speak with a personal injury law firm as soon as possible to verify your case.

Gather as much information as you can, including:

  • The dispensing pharmacist’s name and ID number
  • The original container, bag, and receipt
  • The original prescription
  • Proof of physical effects of the wrong medication (e.g., pictures of rashes)
  • A written log of side effects after taking the wrong prescription

Suppose you have suffered injuries or experienced serious side effects (e.g., blood clots, stroke, organ failure, etc.) after taking the wrong medication. In that case, it is highly advisable to go to your healthcare provider for a check-up.

In doing so, you will also have a medical record of the harm that the wrong prescription caused, which will prove useful in your case.

Damages in a Wrong Prescription Lawsuit

Taking the wrong prescription or an incorrect dose can have serious consequences for your health. That said, you will likely be able to sue for pain and suffering due to this pharmacy error.

Apart from that, here are the damages you may be able to sue for if the pharmacy makes a mistake with your prescription medication:

  • Loss of income: You may be forced to miss work while recovering from the consequences of your medication.
  • Medical bills: You might need to undergo additional treatment or buy more medicine, which would be unnecessary if given the right medication.
  • Wrongful death: If you die as a direct result of taking the wrong medications, your estate may be able to sue for wrongful death.
  • Disability: Suffering a temporary or permanent disability from the pharmacy’s error also counts as damages.

Who Should Be Held Responsible?

Pharmacy errors are sometimes multi-factorial. In any case, a lawyer will be able to help you determine who is at fault.

For example, if the pharmacy gave you the wrong medication despite the prescription being correct, they may be held fully liable for the error.

But if the doctor prescribed you the wrong drug or dose, their error may count as medical negligence. In addition, the pharmacy may also be held liable for failure to verify your medications.

How to Avoid Medication Mistakes

Healthcare providers are obligated to give you the proper medication in the correct dose every single time. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and incorrect prescriptions are quite common.

To avoid accidentally taking an incorrect medication and dose, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following consumer safety practices:

  • Ask your physician about the drug’s name and purpose. Write the name and instructions on a separate piece of paper during your consultation.
  • Ask your physician about the possibility of the medication interacting with other drugs you take.
  • Make sure you understand the instructions. Clarify with your doctor or pharmacist if needed.
  • Check the drug’s label and the pills’ appearance before taking the medicine. If there are variations from your previous prescription, ask the pharmacist to verify.
  • Keep all your medications stored in their original containers. For example, if you take multiple drugs for high blood pressure, ensure they are stored separately.
  • Give a copy of all the drugs you take (prescription and non-prescription alike) to your health care provider.
  • Ask your pharmacist for a counseling session to learn more about your medications and how to take them properly.

Seek Legal Counsel for Pharmacy Error

Medications have specific doses for a reason. A drug dose is just the right amount to achieve the desired therapeutic efficacy for a condition.

Healthcare providers owe safe and correct prescription medications to all patients. Hence, they are duly responsible for giving the correct dose andmedication every time.

If the pharmacy gave you the wrong dose or drug, you are at risk of adverse health effects and even accidental death.

If the pharmacist fills your prescription incorrectly, you have the legal right to sue for any damages caused by their error. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, can serve as your lead counsel against your pharmacist and other health care professionals that may have played a role in the mistake.

Call (888) 424-5757 or fill out this contact form to schedule a free consultation today. Due to the complicated nature of medicine, taking your case on a contingency fee basis will help you avoid paying for legal services all on your own.

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