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Cochran Firm Blog, Philadelphia

Prescription Error: Who is Responsible?


No matter what type of personal injury case you are dealing with, determining fault is not always clear. And identifying negligence is typically even more so difficult in cases of medical malpractice. When you go to seek medical treatment, a team of trained experts work together to operate, treat, and observe you – especially when a surgery or invasive procedure is performed. Therefore, the tragic negligence of one team member puts the entire group under investigation. So in the case of prescription error or prescription drug lawsuits, one of the most common types of malpractice, who is responsible? The primary doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or pharmaceutical company? The short answer is that it depends – because all parties have equal duty to provide a standard of care – but we will do our best to explain a scenario for each.

When A Doctor Is Responsible for Prescription Error

Once a doctor-patient relationship has been established, the treating doctor is expected to perform the standard of care that any other physician would under the same circumstance. It serves as the foundation for any malpractice lawsuit, including prescription drug lawsuits.

There are two common examples and instances where a treating physician has been successfully sued for a prescription error. The first example is misdiagnosis. Treating a patient for the wrong condition or one they don’t even have can have serious consequences. Additionally, prescribing the wrong dosages based on a misdiagnosis are equally as dangerous to the patient.

The second example, although it sounds silly, is when a doctor writes an illegible prescription. Everyone knows doctors are notorious for bad penmanship, but it’s not a good enough excuse to avoid fault in a prescription error lawsuit. To prove it, in 1992, a Texas family was awarded $4.5 million due to an illegible prescription that caused the death of a 42 year old man. 

When A Nurse Is Responsible for Prescription Error

As mentioned previously, it is not uncommon for medical teams to be involved in the treatment of patients – including various doctors, nurses, and operating staff. Negligence does not automatically default to anyone. Every member of a medical team has a standard duty of care to meet, so depending on their involvement the chances of them being investigated for medical malpractice is high.

One example of a nurse being held accountable for medical malpractice occurred in 2018 in the case of Dalessandro v. Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. The nurse misread a prescription for ephedrine and gave the patient epinephrine, causing the victim to suffer from permanent heart and cognitive damage. In this context, understanding when a prescription error becomes malpractice is crucial, as the prescribing doctor did nothing wrong. It was solely the negligence of the nurse that resulted in the victim’s suffering.

When A Pharmacist Is Responsible for Prescription Error

Everyday people are diagnosed, treated, and sent home with a prescription from their doctor. And unfortunately for some, their troubles begin the moment they pick up their prescribed medicine – not at the fault of the doctor but of the pharmacist. Too often, wrong dosages and misread prescriptions are given out. 

In 2019, a Florida woman received $4,962,000 after being given an incorrect dosage of testosterone. Her physician prescribed a 20mg/ml dose of testosterone cypionate, but the mail-order pharmacy filled a 200mg/ml dose instead. They labeled it as 20mg/ml so the woman was unaware she was taking the wrong dose. And two months later, she received a letter from the pharmacy, admitting the error. Because of this error, the woman suffered permanent injuries.

When A Pharmaceutical Company Is Responsible for Prescription Error

Sometimes at the end of a medical malpractice investigation, no treating doctor, nurse, or pharmacist is found negligent. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. What had originally been thought to be malpractice may turn out to be product liability or a class-action lawsuit. In other words, the pharmaceutical company is the negligent party for producing a defective or unsafe drug. Although this would no longer fall under the medical malpractice umbrella, it is still a personal injury lawsuit.

There are dozens of class-action lawsuits being filed, including one against Elmiron – a treatment for interstitial cystitis. It has been proven that many Elmiron have suffered permanent retinal injuries without being warned of the drug’s risks. 

We highly suggest that if you are on prescription medication, keep up with the FDA list of recalled prescription drugs and contact your doctor immediately if you see your drug on the list. Don’t stop taking your current medication without speaking to your doctor first and don’t self prescribe substitutes.

Contact Us Today

During this time, The Cochran Firm Philadelphia is continuing to take our own precautionary measures amidst COVID-19, but do not fear – we are still here for you. If you or a loved one needs us this holiday season, we will work with you virtually and waste no time. We will review your case and proceed if we feel we can obtain a favorable outcome, while keeping the health and wellbeing of everyone a priority. We will ensure your case remains on track and keep you in the loop throughout the entire process. 

The attorneys at our Philadelphia office have secured numerous multimillion-dollar awards for victims of serious injury and many have even been recognized as Super Lawyers for their personal injury successes. 

When you are the victim of serious injury or illness, you deserve someone on your side who is both intimately familiar with state and federal laws, and fully devoted to helping you get maximum compensation. Call us today to schedule your FREE case evaluation at 1-800-THE-FIRM.