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Prescription and Medication Errors

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What are prescription or medication errors?

Prescription or medication errors arise when incorrect medication or an incorrect dose of a medication is taken by a patient. This can occur either when the correct medication is prescribed, but the incorrect medication is provided or administered, or when a doctor fails to prescribe medication correctly or appropriately. A medical negligence claim can arise as a result of a medication or prescription error.

Prescription errors can occur for several reasons.

  • A doctor may intend to prescribe the correct medication, but make a mistake in transcribing the name of the drug onto the prescription, or prescribe an incorrect dose.
  • A pharmacist, nurse or another doctor may misread the doctor’s handwriting and dispense or administer the incorrect drug or dose as a result.
  • On the other hand, a doctor may make a flawed medical decision about what is the appropriate medication and write a prescription based on that flawed decision.

Errors with medication can also occur when the prescription is correct and correctly read, but the incorrect drug is dispensed or administered which can occur for many reasons, including mislabelling of the drug or misreading of the label on the drug. Some drugs have very similar names which can lead to mistakes being made.

A medication or prescription error can not only cause a person to take medication that is not indicated, which may in itself cause injury or harm, but it can also result in the person’s underlying illness or condition not being adequately treated or in there being a delay in treating it, which can cause injury or harm. For example, if a person develops epileptic seizures and their GP mistakenly prescribes an antidepressant instead of an anticonvulsant, and the seizures continue, the person may suffer cognitive damage or physical injury from the repeated seizures which might have been prevented had an anticonvulsant been prescribed.

Medication or prescription errors do not always amount to medical negligence. To do so, it must be shown that

  • in making the error, the medical practitioner did not exercise the reasonable skill, care or expertise to be expected of a medical practitioner of his or her position. Even if this is the case, it must also be shown that;
  • the error caused harm or injury beyond the underlying condition the patient was being treated for.  In some cases, the medication error does not result in any further material harm to a patient. In such a case, compensation would not be payable.

Get advice

Medical negligence is a particularly complex area of law and any potential claim must be investigated thoroughly.  If you have been injured  or suffered damage as a result of a medication or prescription error and you think that you have a medical negligence claim,  submit the contact us form or call us on 1800 555 777.