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Medication errors can be particularly dangerous

Feb 19, 2016 | Medication Errors

Doctors in New York and around the country often have extremely poor handwriting, but pharmacists generally do a good job of deciphering what they have written and most prescriptions are filled correctly. However, when prescriptions are not filled properly, the consequences can be fatal.

Prescription errors usually involve patients receiving the wrong drug or an incorrect dosage of the correct drug. When patients take the wrong drug or the wrong dose for days or even weeks before the mistake becomes apparent, the consequences can be severe. The family members of a Florida woman who died after taking a blood thinning medication at 10 times the recommended dose filed a lawsuit grounded on wrongful death against the national pharmacy chain involved, and they were awarded $28 million by a jury, which was increased to more than $33 million by an appeals court. The woman died of a massive stroke in 2007.

Improved communication can reduce the chances of medication mistake, and patients should ask their doctors for the names of the drugs they are being prescribed as well as the recommended dosage and the names of any generic equivalents. Drugs that are used to treat very different conditions sometimes have similar names, and patients may also consider asking their doctors to write the reason the drug is being prescribed on the prescription to provide added guidance for the pharmacist.

Pharmacy chains, hospitals and doctors are rarely willing to admit that they have made mistakes, and they usually have significant resources at their disposal. The damages awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits can be significant in cases of serious injury or premature death, but the outcome of this type of litigation is largely defendant on the quality of the medical evidence introduced. Attorneys with experience in this area will likely understand this, and they may have reliable medical experts that they are able to call upon when necessary.