Dangerous Drugs And Medical Devices

When used correctly, prescribed medications and medical devices allow people to manage, treat or even cure a host of illnesses and ailments. However, there is ample opportunity for things to go wrong.

Drugs can be prescribed incorrectly. Medical devices can be improperly installed or may not be appropriate for the patient’s needs.

A recent study by the Society of Actuaries indicated errors from complication of medical devices, implants or grafts cost the U.S. $1.1 billion annually, which was the third-highest category of costs with regard to medical errors. Another study indicated there are an estimated 1 million medication errors annually in this country, and of those, 20 percent result in life-threatening consequences. A third of those cases occur when the drug is prescribed, 40 percent during administration of the drug at a hospital or nursing home and the rest either during the transcription or filling process at the pharmacy.

Boston medical malpractice attorneys at the Attorney Injury Group have more than two decades of experience in representing victims of these errors, many of which sadly have life-altering and sometimes deadly consequences.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are warranted when there is a finding that the surgeon, doctor, pharmacist, nurse or other medical professional breached the accepted standard of care owed to a patient by acting – or failing to act – as a reasonable person in the same position would.

Doctors Make Mistakes – Dangerous Drugs

Prescribing medications is something doctors do every single day. But the fact that it’s routine doesn’t mean physicians should be careless.

The World Health Organization recommends that anytime a doctor prescribes a drug, he or she must:

  • Evaluate and clearly define patient’s problem.
  • Specify the therapeutic objective.
  • Select an appropriate drug therapy.
  • Initiate therapy with appropriate details, and consider any non-pharmacologic therapies.
  • Give information, instructions and warnings to patients.
  • Evaluate the therapy regularly. This means monitoring treatment results and determine when it may be prudent to discontinue the drug.

To this list, a study published in 2007 by the journal American Family Physician recommends also:

  • Consider the drug cost when prescribing.
  • Use computers and other tools that can help reduce problems that result in prescribing errors.

When doctors fail to fully understand a patient’s condition or inquire as to medication the person may already be taking, serious problems can arise. And while most drugs do have a risk potential, doctors are bound by duty to fully explain to patients these issues and to warn of known complications. This allows patients to make informed decisions about their own care. When a doctor fails to use the appropriate level of care in the course of evaluating the patient, choosing the drug, explaining the possible danger or even in actually writing the prescription, there may be cause for legal action if the end result is patient harm.

Pharmacists Make Mistakes – Dangerous Drugs

Pharmacy errors can be deadly. These mistakes typically involve either transcribing or filling the wrong medication or filling the right medication in the wrong dosage.

The National Patient Safety Foundation reports there are approximately 30 million dispensing errors that occur out of 3 billion prescriptions filled at outpatient pharmacies. That’s 10 percent.

Some of these errors are minor or patients catch them fairly easily. However, the consequences of others can be serious. Not only is the patient deprived of effective treatment of the underlying condition – which sometimes in itself is a critical issue – but consumption of the wrong drug can be dire.

Pharmacists are trained to dispense medications, and people put a huge amount of trust in their pharmacists to properly review and confirm doctor prescriptions, check on medications prepared by technicians and to confirm that the dosage is proper and the drug won’t have a dangerous reaction to any other current medications.

In order to avoid these issues, pharmacists should:

  • Confirm the drug is correct at the pharmacy counter. Compare the instructions given by the physician to the drug name on the pharmacy label.
  • Check that the dosage is correct. This is particularly important with pediatric medications.
  • Determine whether the patient may have had too many refills of a certain drug in a given time.
  • Make sure the computer contains current prescription benefit information, allergies, drug intolerances and phone numbers.

Nurses Make Mistakes – Dangerous Drugs

Nurses do not prescribe medications. However, they are often the ones responsible for dispensing it at a hospital or nursing home setting. These professionals also may be held accountable for:

  • Dispensing the wrong drug.
  • Dispensing the wrong amount of a drug.
  • Failure to catch when a potentially dangerous drug, dosage or interaction may occur.

Doctors Make Mistake – Medical Devices

Major complications with medical devices often fall under the category of product liability. That is, we seek to hold accountable the manufacturer of the device for defective design, manufacturing errors or failure to warn the public of known complications.

However, doctors too may be sometimes be held accountable for improperly prescribing the device, failing to warn patients of the potential risks or for errors in implanting or using the device. Some medical devices that have been the subject of medical malpractice lawsuits include:

  • Pacemakers
  • Shunts
  • IUDs
  • Ventilators
  • Breast Implants
  • Hip Replacements
  • Knee Replacements
  • Dialysis Filters
  • Stents
  • Transvaginal Mesh
  • Robotic Surgery Devices

If you have suffered injury as a result of implantation or use of a medical device or due to a prescription medication error, contact our offices today.