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Are Prescription Drug Overdoses the Result of Medical Malpractice?

In today’s age of medical technology and advancement, it’s nearly impossible to find an adult who has not taken prescription medication. Physicians, whether treating a mild infection, an injury, or a serious disease, have an arsenal of prescription medications from which to choose. In fact, one might consider the growth in the number of drugs available, and the rate at which they are prescribed, to be staggering. For the most part, we should consider ourselves lucky to live in an era in which medical doctors have such an abundant assortment of tools from which to choose. But there is certainly a negative side. With more medications available, and with a tremendous increase in the number of medications consumed, there is a greater opportunity for medication errors. In this article, we’ll discuss several prescription drug issues, including overdose, and whether medical malpractice plays a role.

Sobering Statistics

According to the Huffington Post, in 2013 researchers at the Mayo Clinic determined that 7 out of 10 Americans were taking at least one prescription drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that 1.3 million people suffered injuries in 2014 as the result of medication errors. A 2017 consumer reports article noted the following:

  • In 1997, Americans filled approximately 2.42 billion prescriptions. In 2016, Americans filled approximately 4.47 billion prescriptions. This represents a whopping 85% increase in prescriptions, compared to a 21% increase in population.
  • More than one-half of Americans take an average of four prescription medications.
  • Approximately $200 billion is spent each year on improper and unnecessary medications.

When Can Drug Overdose Be the Result of Medical Malpractice?

To be clear, not all injuries that result from prescription drug overdose are the result of medical malpractice. We have all heard sad stories of patients who abuse drugs or take drugs not prescribed to them. Moreover, some drugs have potential side effects that were clearly explained before the patient took them. On the other hand, there are many examples of medical malpractice that can result in drug overdose or other injuries related to the taking of prescription drugs. The following are some examples of conduct that can clearly result in liability for medical malpractice:

  • Incorrect dosage or strength: a doctor may prescribe the wrong strength or amount of a drug, or prescribe it to be taken too frequently for the circumstances.
  • Drug interactions: with many patients taking multiple drugs, it’s very important for a doctor to understand the interactions of all prescribed drugs.
  • Improper instructions or labeling: the proper use of a drug should be explained to a patient. We have also seen cases with incorrect instructions on the medication container.
  • Improper communication: doctors and pharmacists must communicate. Many errors occur when this communication breaks down.

These are only a few examples of wrongful conduct. Keep in mind that other health care providers, including nurses and pharmacists, can also cause harm by making mistakes with prescription medications.

Call with Questions

People across the United States suffer injuries every day as the result of overdose and prescription drug errors. While it is true that sometimes a patient is solely at fault, we have seen many circumstances in which patients in Oregon suffered harm as the result of negligence somewhere within the medical system. The negligence can occur with physicians, pharmacists, nurses, other medical personnel, or sometimes with the manufacturer of the medication. In such circumstances, it’s important to hold wrongdoers responsible so that all of society is protected. However, it often takes careful investigation and analysis to pinpoint the responsible party. If you have questions, please contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield.