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Chicago's Pharmacy Error Epidemic

Pharmacists, doctors and nurses have a duty to protect patients from harmful medication mistakes

They are responsible for ensuring that individuals receive the correct drug prescription and dosage. However, even the seemingly simple act of a doctor electronically sending a prescription to a pharmacy, or a pharmacist counting out pills, can put patients at risk of serious, and even fatal, injuries if a medication error occurs.

Have you suffered an injury from a medication error that could easily have been prevented? Briskman Briskman & Greenberg is committed to helping you secure fair compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses and other costs related to the medical mistake.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 1.3 million Americans are injured every year

All from mistakes involving prescription drugs. Common pharmaceutical errors include filling the wrong dosage or failing to keep track of a patient’s medication history. For example, a doctor prescribing medication might overlook potential negative interactions that could occur with other drugs the patient is already taking. According to the Center for Disease Control, 82 percent of the general population takes at least one prescription medication and 29 percent takes five or more. With so many people relying on medication, and even taking multiple drugs simultaneously, patients are exposed to the risk of injury when the incorrect dosage is given without proper instructions.

Medication mistakes can happen in pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes, retail chain drug stores and other similar settings

Hospital pharmacies often use automated systems to dispense large quantities of medication for hospitalized patients. However, such methods are not always foolproof.

Pharmacists are trained professionals who are expected to ensure that individuals get the required medication in the correct dosage with the proper labels. That does not always happen. When pharmacists and health care providers are negligent in their duty of preventing medication mistakes, they can cause severe negative consequences for patients.


What is a pharmacy error?

According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, a pharmacy error is a “preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm.” Such medication errors are also known as adverse drug events.

A pharmaceutical error can occur during any stage of the medication distribution process, including prescribing, repackaging, labeling, dispensing, administering or monitoring. For example, patients depend on physicians to prescribe the proper medications, but doctors make mistakes sometimes when ordering drugs. A pharmacist may put the wrong label on a medication bottle, leaving the patient without the correct instructions for taking the pills.

Common types of pharmacy errors
There are a number of other pharmaceutical errors that can occur. Here are some to be aware of.
    Most common errors

    Most common errors: The FDA identified administration of the wrong drug dosage as the most common fatal medication mistake. Dosage errors account for around 41 percent of medication-related deaths. If a pharmacist dispenses too small of a dose, the patient’s underlying condition could worsen and require additional treatment. A drug overdose, on the other hand, could lead to negative side effects and even death.

    01 | Dispensing the wrong medication

    Dispensing the wrong medication: A doctor could write a prescription for the wrong medication, or the pharmacist could give the patient a different drug than the one on the doctor’s prescription. A study by the Healthcare Providers Service Organization found that 75.3 percent of pharmacist liability claims arose from patients receiving either the wrong drug or the wrong dose.

    02 | Dispensing unsafe drugs

    Dispensing unsafe drugs: Giving patients medication that has expired or is known to cause an adverse reaction might harm the individual instead of treating the illness.

    03 | Mislabeling medication

    Mislabeling medication: Sometimes a pharmacist might apply the wrong label on a prescription. In such cases, the individual is left without the proper instructions for taking the medication even though it might be the right one for treating his or her condition.

    04 | Failing to advise patients

    Failing to advise patients about potentially dangerous side effects of certain medications. Pharmacists are responsible for providing patients with adequate instructions for how to use the drug. Failure to do so may cause the individual to misuse it due to a lack of understanding of the directions. Pharmacists are required by federal law to counsel customers about prescription drugs.

    05 | Disregarding the patient’s medication history

    Disregarding medication history: Pharmacists have a duty to take into account the drugs the patient is currently taking and ensure that the prescription will not react negatively with them. They must also chart patient drug allergies, if any.


    What causes pharmacy errors?

    Medication mistakes can occur due to a variety of reasons including:

    • poor medication dispensing procedures;
    • computer system errors;
    • understaffed pharmacies, clinics and hospitals;
    • negligent hiring practices’
    • lack of communication between medical staff;
    • drug name mix-ups or ambiguity.

    Pharmacies must implement quality control systems to account for such mistakes and improve patient safety. Pharmacists and technicians are responsible for checking every prescription for accuracy — including the drug name, strength, dosage and instructions for use — before it gets to the patient and has the potential to cause harm.

    Many dispensing mistakes are the result of human error.

    For example, a pharmacists may sometimes grab the drug on the shelf next over from the one they intended to take. Pharmacists often feel the pressure to work at a fast pace. Many are also required to work long hours. Working in a stressful environment can give rise to reckless conduct and medication errors that put the safety of patients at risk.

    In addition, several drugs have complicated, similar-sounding names or medical abbreviations. For example, the medications Zantac and Zyrtec sound similar but treat different illnesses. Pharmacists may also have difficulty deciphering handwritten prescriptions from doctors. According to the FDA, the most common errors happen when a pharmacist or other medical professional incorrectly reads a prescription written by a doctor.

    Wrong selections by the health care provider when using electronic medical records to dispense medications can result in errors as well. A person could also make mistakes when entering information into a computer. Pharmacists are obligated to verify each individual’s name, birth date, address and phone number in order to avoid patient misidentification.

    Dangers of medication mistakes

    Administering the wrong drugs or dosage or mislabeling prescription bottles can have serious consequences

    Such errors can result in brain damage, organ failure or coma. Some dangerous and even fatal side effects include:

    Allergic reactions: Some people are allergic to specific drugs or to a particular ingredient in the medication. Allergic reactions to drugs can be very serious and painful.

    Adverse reactions: If patients are given the incorrect drug or dosage, or even expired medication, they could suffer harmful side effects.

    Drug interactions: Pharmacists need to be cautious in ensuring that the prescribed drug will not react badly with other medications the patient may already be taking.


    Pharmacy errors are preventable

    Medical malpractice occurs when a pharmacist or health care provider is negligent in filling a prescription with the correct medication and dosage. Physicians, nurses and pharmacists may be liable for prescribing the wrong medications, dispensing them improperly, giving insufficient instructions, failing to warn a patient about a drug’s side effects or other medication errors.


    It is essential that medical personnel understand patients’ illnesses to prevent harmful drug interactions and other complications. In addition, doctors are obligated to inform patients about possible drug risks. They can be held responsible for the medication error if they fail to do so.

    The effects of a medication error can be devastating to victims and their families

    In most cases the pharmacy error could have been avoided whether through simply being more alert, taking responsibility for patients’ health care, using automated drug dispensing systems or implementing computerized entry to increase accuracy.

    If you or a loved one experienced a medication error that worsened an existing condition instead of treating it, you may have a medical malpractice claim. When a medical mistake results from the negligence of the pharmacist, physician, nurse or hospital, you could be entitled to compensation. Damages can include medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and other expenses incurred due to the injury.

    Committed to helping families

    We are available to discuss the circumstances of your pharmacy error

    The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg are available to discuss the circumstances surrounding your particular pharmacy error and your options for pursing a malpractice claim. We are committed to helping families hold pharmacies and health care providers responsible for harmful pharmaceutical errors.

    Talk to a Pharmacy Error Attorney


    Call Us Today at 1.877.595.HURT (4878)

    If you were injured or lost a loved one because of the carelessness of another, you may be able to receive compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

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