Pharmacists have a great deal of responsibility within the medical community. Proper prescribing information can be the difference between a healthy patient and severe patient injury and overdose.
Pharmacy malpractice and medication errors may be more common than many Americans think. Cases of prescription malpractice and medication errors can be diverse and include the following:
- Dosage errors—a pharmacist can be negligent if they fill a prescription with a higher or lower dosage than what is prescribed.
- Wrong Medications—pharmacy malpractice cases involve incidents when an incorrect medication is given to a patient
- Prescription mix-up—it is not unheard of for a pharmacist to make mistakes and accidentally give the wrong person a medication or dosage they have not been prescribed.
- Failures to instruct patients—pharmacists are meant to provide pertinent medication information to patient to prevent injury or overdose.
What Drugs Are Overprescribed?
Hospitals and pain clinics have been scrutinized in the last few years for overprescribing powerful opioid painkillers to patients and then failing to follow up with patients. The practice of prescribing drugs for profit has reached an epidemic, and the lives of thousands of Americans have been lost to severe addiction and overdoses.
With tens of thousands of patients overdosing on prescription medication and illicit substances like Fentanyl, doctors have been sued in wrongful death cases in which they prescribed dangerous painkillers and failed to follow up on the patient.
Joe Lyon is an experienced medication error attorney and prescription malpractice lawyer representing plaintiffs nationwide following opioid overdose injury and wrongful death.
Managing pain is a priority for so many Americans. Every morning people wake up in pain and wonder how they can get through the day. Patients rely heavily on medical professionals to diagnose and treat a wide variety of painful conditions and illnesses. But doctors sometimes fail in their duties. As a result, painkillers and opioids are over-prescribed and under-prescribed, and patients suffer the consequences.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently warned that doctors are misusing opioid pain medication guidelines, worsening conditions in the opioid addiction and overdose crisis in the U.S. New studies suggest doctors and pain management physicians have misapplied 2016 guidelines that clamped down on the use of opioids.
A review in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that many physician responses to the opioid overdose crisis went too far. Pain management professionals must properly treat patients, and if they fail to do so, they may be held liable for overdose injuries and deaths related to painkiller prescription malpractice.
A wave of opioid abuse lawsuits targeted drug makers, doctors and drug distributors in recent years. Pain clinics are sometimes reticent to prescribe painkiller and opioids to patients in need. But completely cutting off a supply of painkillers to the consumer in need is misapplying the government’s guidance, according to the CDC.
Doctors are advised to begin slowly and prescribe a low effective dose and avoid increasing it too quickly. This is basic pain treatment procedure. But health agencies and Cincinnati opioid prescription malpractice attorneys have heard reports of doctors and clinics suddenly tapering or discontinuing painkillers, raising the risks of severe withdrawal symptoms, pain, psychological distress, and death.
Medical professionals and pharmacists have the duty of weighing the benefits and risks of opioid painkillers for each individual patient. Every case is unique and physicians should provide a standard of care without improperly prescribing painkillers.
There are more than 50 million chronic pain patients in the U.S. Many pain patients have been denied treatment because practices have closed or doctors have been disciplined. This leaves a large number of American pain patients in a bind.
Hospital Drug Errors
An Ohio doctor, William Husel, working in the Columbus Mount Carmel Health System from 2015 to 2018, has been charged with 25 deaths, each related to a prescribed opioid overdose. The doctor stands accused of ordering fatal doses of fentanyl and other opioids to patients.
Husel faces multiple counts of murder after a six-month investigation of the hospital overdose deaths. The Ohio patient fentanyl overdose deaths highlights serious issues with detecting widespread hospital negligence and medical malpractice within a hospital. The safety of patients was compromised by a failure involving around 30 employees, many of which could be later found negligent.
The fentanyl malpractice case goes beyond typical negligence standards and is one of the most serious healthcare crimes in recent history. Husel, the primary defendant in the case, was first suspended last year and then eventually fired before charges were brought against him.
Most of the patients involved in the Mount Carmel fentanyl overdose deaths were terminally ill, though their health still did not warrant such an excessive and deadly dose of opioids. Husel’s attorney has stated that the doctor did not intend for any patients to die.
Other charges may be filed against those liable in the death of overdose victims. Plaintiff lawyers and medical experts have noted that the opioid doses were so excessive that they “could not support any legitimate medical purpose.
Opioid Prescription Malpractice
The CDC is now recommending several safeguards with opioid painkiller use, including:
- Avoid mixing opioid pain medications with benzodiazepines
- Consider the use of non-opioid pain treatment
- Review risks of long-term and high-dose opioid use
- If necessary, carefully taper painkiller dosage to minimize withdrawal
- Monitor patients to prevent overdose
Pharmacy Malpractice & Medical Negligence
Much has been reported about the for-profit business model that pharmaceutical companies have created for doctors, where medical professionals get kickbacks for selling great quantities of specific drugs.
Painkillers and anti-anxiety medications have been some of the “best sellers,” and doctors have made millions–as the drug companies have made billions–while patients get addicted to potent drugs like the following:
According to the CDC, around 2 million Americans either abused or were dependent on prescription opioid painkillers by 2014. Reports from state health departments, county coroners and medical examiners suggest that the fentanyl overdose rate has continued to worsen in recent years.
Current litigation seeks to hold doctors, pain clinics and drug companies accountable for producing, marketing and distributing opioid painkillers without proper warnings.
Health care providers, including doctors at pain clinics, are considered accountable when patients experienced Fantanyl overdoses or other opioid injury. Doctors may face civil lawsuits for overprescribing drugs like fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.
Deaths involving prescription opioids continue to rise, and many deaths involve numerous dangerous drugs, taken in conjunction with one another. Complications can include:
• Chest pain
• Difficulty breathing
• Poor skin reactions
• Abdominal pain
• Dizziness, drowsiness, or lightheadedness
• Nausea or vomiting
• Irregular heartbeat
Prescription Malpractice Lawyer
The current situation with thousands of overdose and deaths each year demands legal action. Consumer safety advocates, attorneys and even congress seek to hold doctors and the drug industry accountable.
Doctors who prescribe dangerous painkillers for profit, and those who fail to follow up with patients, may be held liable for opioid overdose deaths and addiction.
Ohio Hospitals, like Mount Carmel West in Columbus,, have been battling allegations that their doctors and pharmacists have overprescribed dangerous painkillers and has led to the death of dozens of patients.
Furthermore, drug companies can be held responsible in product liability lawsuits that claim the pharmaceutical companies engage in unethical and illegal, negligent business practices. Pharmacy malpractice can result in the following injuries:
- Allergic reactions
- Severe Illness
- Organ Failure
- Birth Defects
- Pregnancy complications
Common Medication Errors
Medication error cases are thought to be synonymous with pharmacist malpractice. Prescription errors are relatively common as human error can play huge roles. A prescription may be written down or entered into a computer system incorrectly. Pharmacy technicians may be incompetent, or simply fatigued and capable of making mistakes.
These mistakes can result in an improper medication or improper dosage, and ultimately serious injury and loss of life. Medication errors are not only an issue with pharmacist malpractice or doctors over-prescribing drugs.
Medication Error cases can begin high in the chain of drug distribution. Many pharmaceutical recalls have indicated drug mislabeling problems, and some of the mislabeled drugs reach consumers and patients before they can be recalled from the shelves.
Drug Mislabeling Lawsuits
In a recent case of drug mislabeling, 200,000 bottles of Clopidogrel distributed by Walmart were recalled because the medication contained Simvastatin, a different chemical agent altogether. Missed doses of Clopidogrel, a drug meant to reduce the risk of heart attacks, can be life threatening.
Adverse drug events affect millions of patients each year in the United States, leading to medication error lawsuits and pharmacy malpractice settlements. Pharmacists have a duty to serve patients to the best of their ability, and when they fail to perform their positions properly, they may be sued for damages.
Medication Safety Tips
Patients and loved ones are always encouraged to double check their prescription against the bottle of medications, as well as the dosage information.
If you suspect a loved one has suffered due to a medication error or prescription malpractice, check the FDA Web site for recent recalls, consult the prescribing doctor regarding drug risks, and check medical records for unusual toxic levels of medications in the blood.