Dispensing medication is a complicated profession, and errors can have devastating effects. Yet a quiet epidemic unfolds in pharmacies in New York and around the country.
Nearly every prescribed medicine on the market has a laundry list of side effects. Patients rely on their medications to survive, and in some cases missing a single dose could prove fatal. Alternatively, the wrong prescription could interact adversely with another medication the patient is taking, or result in overdose.
Still, the struggle to fill an ever-increasing number of prescriptions has led to more pharmacy mistakes — some harmful, some even deadly.
Today’s post shares some of the most common forms of pharmacist negligence, why it seems to be happening more often, and how pharmacists may be liable for resulting injuries.
Forms of Pharmacist Negligence in NY
Negligence is legally defined as the failure of a duty to exercise a standard of care any reasonable person would have done in a similar situation. Pharmacists specifically have certain duties to their patients. Below are the pharmacist errors we see most often that lead to patient injuries today.
Dispensing the Wrong Medication or Dosage
About half of all pharmacist errors involve dispensing the wrong medication — the pharmacist actually filled a prescription with an entirely different medication than prescribed. In other words, New Yorkers have a 50/50 chance of getting the right meds at the pharmacy.
Another quarter of the time, medications are dispensed at the wrong dosage. Even when a product is somehow mislabeled by the manufacturer, the pharmacist is trained to catch these errors by identifying the appearance or code of the pills.
Regardless of the circumstances, the pharmacist will almost always be found negligent for this mistake. It’s simply unacceptable.
Failing to Take the Patient’s Medical History Into Account
A pharmacist has the knowledge of how the body metabolizes and otherwise reacts to the medications he or she prescribes. Part of that understanding comes from reviewing a patient’s medical history.
For example, if a patient’s record indicates an allergy to penicillin, the pharmacist has an obligation to refuse to dispense penicillin to the patient, and could be held at least partially liable for any injury sustained by the patient.
Failing to Screen Multiple Prescriptions
Further, when someone is taking multiple medications, serious or fatal interactions are even more likely to occur. While most major pharmacies use a database that automatically identifies potential interactions, a failsafe human element is still necessary.
Although the prescribing physician is required to check for interactions, many patients hold prescriptions from multiple providers. So, the pharmacy is also required to conduct this manual interaction check.
Why Are More Mistakes Happening in New York Pharmacies?
The short answer? Pharmaceutical marketing works.
Demand and workload for pharmacies is growing, and pharmacists and their technicians are being forced to fill prescriptions at rates rivaling Amazon delivery.
As a patient, you expect to leave the doctor’s office straight for the pharmacy to pick up your meds. We are all guilty. But is it a reasonable request? Maybe — maybe not.
When pharmacists have to race us to the pick-up window, they may not take the time to catch potentially fatal mistakes. Unfortunately, no matter how busy a pharmacist is, performing these crosschecks is critical to patient safety. It’s the pharmacist’s legal obligation.
A NY Pharmacist’s Legal Obligations
A pharmacist is actually required to do more than simply count pills and dispense them against prescriptions. Under New York law, pharmacists are also required to:
- Check for drug interactions with all existing prescriptions
- Advise the patient of serious potential side effects
- Ensure that dosing is correct
Failure to meet these obligations can result in serious injury or even death of a patient, for which the pharmacist can and should be held liable.
When you can prove a breach in their duty to you or a loved one has directly caused injury or harm, you may have grounds for a pharmacist negligence lawsuit.