Prescription medicines have substantially improved people’s lives, but if you are given the wrong prescription, it could hurt you badly. If that happens to you, schedule a consultation with a Washington, D.C. medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal rights and options.

What are your rights if your doctor, pharmacist, or a pharmaceutical company makes a mistake, and you take the wrong medication? What are your options? Keep reading this brief discussion of prescription medicines and your rights, and you may find some of the answers you need.

However, if your health has declined, or if you’ve been injured because you were prescribed the wrong medication, you are also going to need the personalized advice and effective legal representation that a Washington, D.C. medical malpractice lawyer can provide.

How Do Doctors Make Prescription Errors?

More than 20,000 prescription drugs are available in the United States, so doctors, pharmacists, and drug companies have plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. Doctors:

  1. may not consider the other medicines a patient is already taking
  2. may not order the right frequency or dosage
  3. may simply prescribe the wrong drug

Many prescription errors are the result of a misdiagnosis, when a medicine is prescribed for a wrongly diagnosed medical condition. Approximately twelve million adults are misdiagnosed every year in the United States. A misdiagnosis may be the result of a doctor’s failure to:

  1. consult thoroughly with the patient about the patient’s symptoms
  2. determine the exact causes of those symptoms
  3. test for certain conditions and diseases
  4. interpret test results accurately

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives more than 100,000 reports each year associated with a suspected prescription error. Doctors may be held liable for their prescription mistakes when those mistakes bring harm or injury to a patient.

When Are Drug Companies Responsible for Prescription Errors?

If a drug harms or injures a patient, the manufacturer is legally responsible only if it did not adequately warn the doctor about the drug’s possible risks and side effects. Drug companies are obligated to ensure that their products are reasonably safe when prescribed and used as intended.

The law presumes that a doctor is a trained professional who can make accurate decisions about whether a drug is right for a patient. Thus, it is the doctor, and not the drug company, who has a duty to advise patients about a prescription drug’s potential risks and possible side effects.

When Can a Drug’s Manufacturer Be Sued?

Nevertheless, under federal law, when a pharmaceutical company makes and distributes a drug that is defective, that company is liable for the injuries and harm suffered by those who used that drug. The compensation amount that a victim may recover in such a case will depend on:

  1. the severity of the side-effects
  2. whether those effects were short-term or long-term
  3. whether those effects were life-threatening
  4. whether additional surgery or treatment was required for the patient

In both Maryland and the District of Columbia, the statute of limitations – that is, the deadline for bringing an injury claim – is three years in product liability cases, including claims against the manufacturers of defective drugs.

That three-year window is important in cases that involve defective drugs because some patients may have reactions and experience side effects that – although not immediately apparent – develop over time into a serious and painful medical condition.

When Can a Pharmacy Be Sued?

Pharmacies in the United States fill more than four billion prescriptions every year. Even though the 100,000 prescription mistakes reported annually to the FDA is only a tiny percentage of all prescriptions, it still represents a disturbingly high number of mistakes.

You may sue a pharmacy for any harm or injury that is the result of receiving a medicine that was not the medicine your doctor prescribed. Inform your doctor of the mistake, and if you suffered injury or harm, schedule a consultation with a medical malpractice attorney.

Can Medical Facilities Be Sued for Prescription Errors?

A doctor may be held accountable for prescribing the wrong drug, and a pharmacy may be held accountable for giving you the wrong drug, but a medical facility, a hospital, or an individual health care worker may be liable for errors made while administering a drug.

In a chaotic hospital setting, a drug might even be given to the wrong patient. Hospitals and other medical facilities may be held directly liable for negligence in some medical malpractice cases. In other cases, a facility may be held “vicariously” liable for the negligence of an employee.

What is Vicarious Liability?

“Vicarious liability” is a legal principle that allows employers to be held liable “vicariously” for employee negligence if that negligence occurred in the “course and scope” of an employee’s job duties. A hospital may also be held liable for:

  1. conducting inadequate background checks on a doctor or for failing to confirm a doctor’s credentials before giving that doctor hospital privileges
  2. not having a sufficient number of registered nurses on-duty around the clock – if a patient suffers harm or injury as a result of that failure
  3. the negligent actions (or negligent omissions) of contractors hired to manage emergency rooms or outpatient facilities

When a doctor or any other health care worker is an independent contractor and not an employee of a hospital, and that contractor commits medical malpractice at a hospital, in most cases, the hospital cannot be held liable for the contractor’s malpractice.

Are You the Victim of a Prescription Error?

If you’ve been taking a particular medication for several days or weeks, have your symptoms improved as anticipated? If the drug is having no positive effect on you, it may have been prescribed by mistake.

A drug may also have been prescribed by mistake if you are dealing with negative side effects, and especially if they’re not the side effects that your physician said to expect.

If you think you were given the wrong drug, immediately speak to your doctor or schedule a visit. Tell your doctor about the side effects of the drug and your concerns. An honest discussion can help you know why this drug was prescribed and whether you need a different prescription.

If a conversation with your doctor does not resolve the situation, take your concerns to a Maryland or Washington, D.C. medical malpractice attorney who will discuss your rights and options, review your medical records, and advise you about what steps to take next.

What Will It Cost You to Seek Justice?

Whether you file a medical malpractice claim against a doctor, pharmacy, or hospital or a product liability claim against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, you will need a Washington, D.C. medical malpractice lawyer’s advice, insights, and aggressive representation.

With a product liability or medical malpractice claim, you can be compensated for your additional medical expenses caused by a prescription mistake, for any wages you lost because you were unable to work, and for the personal pain and suffering caused by a prescription error.

What will it cost you to seek justice? If you are the victim of a prescription error, your first meeting with an attorney is offered with no cost or obligation, and you will pay no attorney’s fee until – and unless – your attorney recovers monetary compensation on your behalf.

The victims of medical negligence deserve justice. If you believe that you have been harmed or injured by a prescription error, make the call to a medical malpractice lawyer now to learn more or to begin the legal process.