Medical negligence involving medication can include situations where the long-term inappropriate prescription of medication gives rise to injury.
For instance, a person on blood pressure medication should be having their blood checked regularly. If flags thrown up on routine tests are not picked up on, serious consequences can flow from the continued prescription of the medication, including renal failure requiring otherwise avoidable dialysis.
Similarly, a situation could arise where somebody who is prescribed hypertension medication just goes back to their GP for repeat prescriptions constantly, when in fact they should be checked out at least once a year to see if there’s any change in their blood pressure, and whether or not they should have the dosage increased or varied, or if they should have follow-up tests to see if there are any warning signs. Where this situation is allowed to continue for years it can lead to otherwise avoidable problems such as stroke occurring as a result of failure to adequately monitor and review a patient on a long-term medication.
Accidental overdose in the context of treating acute situations can also result in serious permanent injuries for patients, including liver damage.
Errors can also arise at the dispensing stage where a pharmacist misreads a prescription, or for one reason or another, the incorrect medication or dosage is dispensed. Say for example 25 milligrams as opposed to 5 milligrams are dispensed, which can easily happen and can give rise to serious difficulties.
In such cases, you would have to consider what was originally prescribed and what was dispensed whether there was an error made in relation to either or both. For example, you could have the question of the prescription of the medication by the prescribing medical professional, be it a GP or a doctor in a hospital, or a nurse practitioner, and whether or not what they prescribed was correct. But, then you would also have to consider the person who was dispensing, i.e. the pharmacists and whether or not they actually dispensed what they were asked to do by the prescription. You can also have straightforward cleric errors where somebody gives the wrong dosage of medication on foot of a properly written prescription.
The failure to properly consider underlying conditions or other medication that a patient is taking can regularly give rise to problems. For example, if somebody is on a blood thinner, like Warfarin, there are a lot of medicines that would not be available to them for other conditions that might arise, and if a GP or medical professional didn’t properly actually have regard to this when prescribing another medication this could give rise to a claim in negligence. There could be very clear warnings by the manufacturer of the drug that’s being prescribed not to use it with other drugs, because of a negative interaction. So, if the doctor fails to pick up on the patient’s history and what their repeat prescription is, and prescribes something, which interacts negatively with it, that would obviously give rise to a potential cause of action.
Then you can also have issues arising as a result of problems with the medication itself, which will involve a shift in focus from medical negligence to product liability and any claim in that context is usually going to be against the producer of the medication, as opposed to the person who prescribed it. Generally speaking, if a medication is authorized by the relevant regulatory body then you can’t blame a doctor for prescribing it.
Other situations might include instances such as where a medication may lead to a known symptom or side effect which picked up or adverted to in the treatment of that symptom, where discontinuing or changing the original medication might be the appropriate action to take.
You can also have the situation where a patient on mediation, say for example an anti-clotting medication, such as Apixaban, is told on going in for a procedure that they should stop taking the medication when that wasn’t necessary. This can lead to complications such as stroke in the context of anti-clotting medication, that could otherwise have been avoided, if the patient had continued taking the medication.
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Some links relating to medication errors that you may find useful.
- NIH – Medication related litigation in Ireland: A 6‐year review
- The Pharmacy Regulator – How to Make a Complaint
- Citizens Information – Complain about medical professionals
Bringing a Medication Error Negligence Claim
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John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels.
John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.