Medical Malpractice

Can I Sue Over a Prescribed Medication?

Prescription medications are invaluable for countless patients, but often these medications cause serious side effects. A prescription needs to be properly written, filled, and administered, or any resulting harm to the patient may lead to a lawsuit.

As almost any pharmaceutical company advertisement will tell you, prescribed medications often come with side effects that can be pretty significant. If these side effects aren't properly considered or disclosed, or if there is a mistake in the prescription process, those errors can form the basis of a viable medical malpractice lawsuit or product liability claim.

Prescription Drugs and Health Care Provider Duties

A "side effect" is essentially a symptom that is unrelated to the condition for which the medication was taken. Some of the more serious examples of side effects include organ damage, depression, suicidal thoughts and even death.

When doctors prescribe medications, they have a legal duty to assess:

  • the relative benefits and risks of the medication in light of the patient's overall health
  • the relationship of the prescription to other medications being taken by the patient, and
  • the medication's known side effects.

When pharmacists dispense prescribed medications, they must correctly read the doctor's prescription and fill it with the correct medication in the properly-prescribed dosage.

And finally, when prescribed medications are administered by way of an injection in a doctor's office or hospital setting, the nurses and other care providers must administer the correct medication in the proper dosage and with the medically accepted protocol.

Prescription Drugs and Medical Malpractice

The failure of a doctor, pharmacist or nurse to comply with any of the above-mentioned duties may provide the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit if certain elements can be proven.

First, you will need to establish that you took the medication in strict accordance with the instructions provided to you.

Second, if your claim is based on a failure-to warn-theory, you must show that your doctor did not take proper steps to advise you of the side effects or other complications you're now experiencing.

Third, if your claim is based on a dispensing error, you must prove that the medication dispensed by the pharmacist was different from the medication prescribed by your doctor in type and/or dosage.

Fourth, if your claim is based on wrongful administration of the medication by a nurse, you must establish that the nurse either injected the wrong medication or administered it in an improper manner. (Note: In this situation, you'd probably be suing the hospital for malpractice.)

Fifth, you will likely need expert testimony to prove a causal link between the medication error and your resulting harm.

And finally, you will be required to show that you have suffered damages that are compensable under the law.

If you succeed in proving your case, you will usually be entitled to recover damages for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost earnings and loss of the enjoyment of normal life activities.

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Prescription Drugs and Product Liability

In addition to (or instead of) an action for medical malpractice, depending on the facts of your situation you may be able to bring a product liability claim, if you can establish that:

  • the prescribed medication was defectively manufactured
  • the medication was defectively designed, or
  • the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warning of known risks and side effects.
This type of claim is typically brought against the pharmaceutical company that designed, manufactured and sold the medication, and a lawsuit like this also usually requires expert testimony to establish liability and causation.

Taking Action

If you're suffering any ill effects after taking a prescribed medication, the first thing you need to do is talk to your doctor, especially if what you're experiencing is beyond mild, anticipated side effects.

It's also a good idea to start documenting the situation, which means writing down everything your doctor, pharmacist and, if applicable, the administering nurse says and does in connection with your prescription. If you suspect that any of these health care professionals failed to fulfill their legal duties in connection with your prescription, it may be time to discuss your potential case with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Learn more about Selecting a Good Medical Malpractice Lawyer.

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