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Dispensing Error Cases: When Pharmacists Make Mistakes

Nobody is perfect. People make mistakes. Sometimes they are honest mistakes. Other times, they are avoidable. We certainly don’t expect regulated professionals to make mistakes, but they do. It happens.

But, when a pharmacist makes an error, it can be deadly or result in very serious health consequences.

When a pharmacist makes an error in the dispensing of medication, this is called a dispensing error case. And our law firm, Goldfinger Injury Lawyers has handled countless dispensing error cases throughout the years. Here are some common types of dispensing error cases we have seen.

The Right Medication, but the Wrong Dosage

In these cases, the pharmacists gets the medication correct, but dispenses the incorrect dosage. Too little of the medication often times doesn’t cause much harm (but it can). Take the example of a seizure medication or an anti-nausea medication. Too little won’t have the desired effect. Too much of a certain medication can have deadly consequences. Most common in these cases are the dispensing of methadone. A doctor may prescible a 10mg dosage, but the pharmacist accidentally dispenses 100mg of methadone. Too much methadone can result in seizures, stopping to breath, muscle damage and other issues. Naloxone is a medication which quickly reverses the effect of an opioid like methadone. If you don’t get a Naloxone injection quickly after the overdose, or you aren’t taken to hospital quickly, the overdose can have life long consequences.

The Wrong Medication

Sometimes, the pharmacist gets the medication completely wrong. It happens, and when it happens, we see it. The names of the medication (especially some of the less frequently prescribed medications), can be a bit tricky. Take the example of a person who has been prescribed Dimenhydrinate injections to stop their nausea. But instead of the Dimenhydrinate; the pharmacist dispenses Diphenhydramine which is a fancy Benadryl type medication to treat common cold symptoms, but not the nausea/vomiting. The names of the medications are similar, but not the same. The vomitting doesn’t stop, resulting in feeding tubes and other tubes becoming dislodged and infected; thereby necessitating a lengthy hospitalization. The “wrong medication” cases get really bad when the is supposed to be an anti-seizure medication which never reaches the patient. Or, perhaps the wrong medication is dispensed which the patient is allergic to, or which doesn’t react well in combination with then other medications which s/he is already taking resulting in serious side effects. When the wrong medication is dispensed, the patient plaintiff is taking medication which his/her doctor never prescribed. It results in a patient plaintiff taking medication they were not supposed to be taking; without the knowledge of how their body will react to it; and without proper directions on taking it safely (like at night, or with food, or not to drive after taking the medication). Innocently dispensing the wrong medication is a pretty dangerous error.linkedin-2-300x300

Blister Pack Blunder

Some people have to take a lot of medication every day. And sorting out what medication to take, and when to take those medications can be tricky, if not confusing. Pharmacists are trusted to organize the medications in to blister packs where the different pills are separated based on the dates, and time of day which they are taken. The pills are put in to sealed blister packs by the pharmacist, and given to the patient. Sometimes, the pharmacists makes a mistake in dispensing the medication in the blister packs. Too many pills in one pack, too few pills in another pack, pills missing altogether, or the wrong medication is placed into the blister packs. It happens, and when it does, it can have very serious consequences. When these sort of dispensing errors happen, it’s important for the patient/plaintiff to hold on to the blister pack so that it can. be inspected by the lawyers, and also by the College of Pharmacists. The blister pack, and the pills inside all become evidence in the case and in the ensuing College investigation. An investigator from the College of Pharmacists can quickly see if the blister pack was filled properly, or not. But if you throw out that blister pack, the investigator will not be able to properly do his/her job. They may have to speculate on whether or not the blister pack was filled correctly or not.

Why do these Dispensing Errors Happen?

Sometimes, it’s human error. Other times, the pharmacist is inexperienced. We have seen cases involving multi time offenders. This is an example of a pharmacist who just isn’t paying proper attention and as a result, they have committed many of these sort of mistakes over the years. The pharmacist could have been really busy that day, or over worked. These are not excuses. These are just reasons which our law firm has seen in then past for these sort of dispensing errors which have lead to personal injury claims. I have never seen a pharmacist intentionally dispense the wrong medication, or the wrong dosage. I have however seen pharmacists who don’t have the right safety protocols in place, are overworked, understaffed, or who just aren’t careful. When these dispensing errors happen, our job as personal injury lawyers is not to take away their pharmacy license, or to discipline the pharmacist. This will be up to the College of Pharmacists to investigate and to take whatever action they deem best in the circumstances. All that we can do as personal injury lawyers for our clients is to get them the compensation which they deserve for their injuries resulting from the dispensing error.

I will close by stating that simply because a pharmacist has committed a dispensing error does not automatically mean that you will have a successful personal injury case and get damages. If there are not damages caused by the dispensing error, a Court will not award a Plaintiff any compensation (or perhaps a very small award if anything). In order for there to be a claim, there needs to be damages. Those damages are assessed and quantified through the medical records. That means that if you aren’t hurt, but only shaken up and don’t seek out any medical attention as a result of the dispensing error, then the framework of damages won’t be very large.

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