The Top Ten Types of Prescription Errors

Diligent doctor holds pill bottle, ensuring accurate medication guidance composing a prescription

Medications are a crucial part of patient recovery. However, when a patient receives the wrong medication, the results can be catastrophic. Prescription drug errors are among the most common forms of medical malpractice. According to the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), around 1.5 billion people have been victims of medication errors.

Prescription drug errors happen due to an interrelated collection of factors — all within a healthcare provider’s or hospital’s control. With that in mind, you can hold a healthcare professional or prescribing physician liable for any prescription drug error in your treatment. You can also hold hospitals responsible since these institutions bear the burden of policing safe drug policies for patient safety.

If you are the victim of prescription medication errors or any form of medical malpractice, call the Pagan Law Firm at 212-967-8202 for a free consultation.

In the meantime, learn about prescription malpractice, what causes it, and what can happen when you receive the wrong medication. Read on to find out how to prove a healthcare professional or hospital’s negligence in your prescription drug error case.

What is a Prescription Error?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a prescription drug error as any mistake in administering medication to a client. The errors can be in the drug prescribed or in its administration. Prescription drug errors may also occur in the form of inappropriate dosing and preparation and inaccurate patient identification.

Left unchecked, medication errors can result in delayed recovery. At their worst, these types of medical malpractice can lead to considerable patient harm or even death in vulnerable patients.

Types of Prescription Errors

There are many ways in which a prescribing physician or healthcare professional can be liable for prescription malpractice. File a medical malpractice claim with The Pagan Law Firm today if you’re the victim of any of the following types of prescription drug errors.

Prescribing the Wrong Dosage

Physicians should not only prescribe the correct medication but they must also prescribe the correct dosage. The reason for this is that medications achieve the desired result only when they are in the right dosage.

Underdosing a medication isn’t always harmful. However, physicians and other healthcare professionals must follow the right procedures to correct this error. On the other hand, overdosing can lead to catastrophic results. Often, overdosed medications are the reasons patients file medical malpractice lawsuits.

Prescribing the Wrong Medication

Prescribing the wrong medication will result in a patient not recovering on time. At its worst, this type of prescription error will cause adverse effects that can cascade into organ failure or toxicity.

This type of medication error is particularly hazardous when required medications involve the central nervous system or the heart. Prescribing incorrect medication can also cause a life-threatening hypersensitivity reaction in allergic patients.

To prevent incorrect prescriptions, hospitals must have standard operating procedures in place. These standard operating procedures must require healthcare personnel to confirm medications before administering them to patients.

Prescribing a Drug to the Wrong Patient

Oftentimes, drugs can be life-threatening when given to the wrong patient. This can be one of the worst types of prescription errors because it harms two patients. It harms the patient who receives the incorrect drug, as well as the patient who was supposed to receive the drug. After all, by giving the drug to the wrong patient, the healthcare provider fails to give the medication to the patient who needed it most.

When this type of medication error occurs, one of two parties will be negligent. The physician may be liable for negligence by failing to double-check the medication and the patient it’s for. And nurses may also be negligent by not checking the doctor’s order, drug, and the patient’s identification bracelet.

Not Warning Patients of Side Effects

One of the most fundamental rights of patients is their right to information. One of the things patients must know about is the side effects of their medications.

All medications have side effects. Some are minor and expected. Others are more severe and uncomfortable. Whatever the side effects are, nurses and physicians have an ethical responsibility to inform patients of them. Otherwise, they’ll be violating a patient’s right to information.

Besides violating patient rights, the failure to disclose side effects leads to patient harm because it doesn’t prepare patients psychologically. When patients experience side effects without being informed by their physicians or healthcare providers, they can experience fear and anxiety. Patients can still file medical malpractice lawsuits over this.

Mislabeling the Prescription

Mislabeling prescriptions can lead to a variety of medication errors. With poorly labeled prescriptions, nurses and pharmacies won’t be able to identify the medication necessary for a patient. The lack of clarity on the required medication can delay drug administration — and consequently, the patient’s recovery.

When medical personnel finds mislabeled prescriptions, they must notify prescribing physicians immediately. Otherwise, they will share the blame for the physician’s prescription drug error.

Prescribing the Wrong Dosage Form or Drug Route

Prescribing the incorrect route of administration is just as harmful as prescribing the wrong medication. Physicians who prescribe or administer medications incorrectly can cause severe adverse effects.

For example, insulin is an injectable medication best administered subcutaneously. The rationale for this route is that fat can slow down the absorption of the drug. With the drug in the subcutaneous layers of the skin, the drug enters a diabetic patient’s bloodstream slowly. As a result, blood sugar decreases gradually instead of abruptly.

When a healthcare professional administers insulin intramuscularly, the results can be disastrous. Since muscles have more blood vessels than fat stores, injected insulin takes effect faster. This will result in a sudden drop in blood sugar that can place a diabetic patient in a coma.

A drug’s dosage route is just as important as the dose and drug itself. Without ensuring that medication enters a patient’s system correctly, the drug will either be ineffective — or worse, cause patient harm.

Wrong Medication Reporting

Whenever medication errors occur, hospitals must have policies and procedures in place for addressing these mistakes. One of these procedures must be reporting. Whenever healthcare workers report errors, all information surrounding the drug error must be in the report. The hospital’s ability to manage any post-error effect rests on the completeness of the information. Any omission places a patient at risk and constitutes a type of drug error called a medication reporting error.

Improper or Inadequate Drug Monitoring

The health team’s drug-related responsibilities don’t end with administering medication. The team is also responsible for ensuring that a drug achieves the desired therapeutic result. Most importantly, healthcare providers must also check if a drug is causing harm to a patient.

A healthcare professional must evaluate a drug’s effects at various points of the medication regimen. Monitoring begins with skin tests, where a nurse checks a patient’s allergies to medications. Once the test is over, the rest of the health team must evaluate the effectiveness of drugs throughout treatment and adjust based on the patient’s reactions.

Any failure to assess a drug’s effects after administration endangers the lives of patients. Without proper monitoring, patients may experience drug toxicity and hypersensitivity reactions. At their worst, these after-effects can cause disability and death to vulnerable patients.

Compliance Errors

Hospitals will have standard operating procedures when it comes to administering medications. They have developed these procedures for the safety of patients as well as to ensure that healthcare professional negligence decreases to a minimum.

However, some professionals forget to check hospital protocols before administering medications. When this happens and non-compliance harms the patient, the healthcare provider becomes liable for professional negligence.

Inadequate Patient Education

After discharge, patients may still need to take medications. In such cases, healthcare professionals must inform patients about the drugs they are administering to themselves. If healthcare providers fail to do this, the patient administering the medication may take medicines in the wrong dose or alongside other medications.

Poor patient education is one of the most common prescription errors. It seems harmless at a glance. However, when the patient administering medications to themself suffers from adverse effects or toxicity, healthcare providers may be held liable.

If you have suffered due to any of the above prescription errors, you have the right to seek compensation. Contact The Pagan Law Firm today to discuss if you have a valid prescription error case.

Causes of Prescription Malpractice

Causes of Prescription Malpractice

Prescription medication errors occur for a variety of reasons. Often, these reasons boil down to human error, particularly when it comes to coordination.

Here are some of the most common causes of prescription errors in greater detail.

Drug Miscommunication

Depending on a hospital’s typical workflow, administering medication may involve one or more healthcare workers. For the most part, the workflow starts with the physician prescribing medication. From here, nurses coordinate with pharmacists to procure the right medication.

Unfortunately, miscommunication can occur between the physician and the nurse in charge of administering medication. Often, physicians write down the required medications, and nurses and other staff will find the physician’s handwriting illegible.

When this occurs, nurses and other members of the pharmacy misread or make assumptions about the required medication. When this happens, healthcare staff may give patients the wrong prescription medication.

Poor Regulation (in the Case of IV Medications)

As mentioned above, medical negligence can take place because of dosage errors. Dosage errors take place more commonly in IV medications than with other types of prescription drugs.

IV medication errors involving dosage are often a problem of regulation. In other words, healthcare staff may miscalculate the ideal drip rate for IV medications. Slow infusion rates can prolong the use of an IV drip unnecessarily. On the other hand, faster infusion rates can endanger a patient.

This is why members of the health team must double-check their IV regulations. One way institutions have worked around the miscalculation problem is by using infusion pumps. Nevertheless, errors still occur.

Administering Medication at the Wrong Time

Mistimed drug administration can lead to delayed recovery. Such is especially the case when a patient receives a drug too late. This can happen when a doctor or nurse has many patients to see and cannot get to them all on time.

Meanwhile, patients can also be in danger when they receive medications at close time intervals. Prescription errors of this nature can lead to toxicity and damage organs like the liver.

Poor Coordination Between Physicians

Some patients will require the treatment of multiple physicians. To prevent prescription errors, physicians must coordinate closely. Doing this will avert life-threatening drug interactions and allergic reactions.

Unfortunately, physicians may change their patients’ medications midway into treatment. At times, these changes happen on the fly, allowing little to no room for physicians to communicate their changes.

As a result, patients can receive medications that may have interactions with medications they’re receiving from other physicians. When this occurs, pharmaceutical negligence falls on the physician who failed to endorse or communicate the changes made to treatment.

Human Error

Ultimately, medication errors are just that — errors. In particular, they’re errors resulting from poor communication, coordination, and calculation.

Unfortunately, the risk of healthcare professionals making mistakes is always present. Hospitals can, however, mitigate these risks by reducing employee fatigue. Departments can have relievers on their teams to ensure that physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff get much-needed days off.

Insufficient Health History Taking

Before prescribing medication, physicians must begin treatment by taking a patient’s health history. A patient’s health history reveals relevant information that can affect the type of prescription medications a doctor can prescribe. Some valuable information can include the patient’s allergies, drug history, and past medical conditions that bar the use of certain medications.

When a physician fails to take note of a patient’s health history, the prescribed medications a patient receives may do more harm than good.

Inadequate Testing

Prescription medication errors can also happen because of insufficient testing. Healthcare personnel must test medications to determine the patient’s allergies. When physicians or nurses fail to test patients for medication allergies, patients are at risk. Patients may receive the drug and experience life-threatening hypersensitivity reactions.

If you believe you have a valid claim, it is important to speak with an attorney immediately. Call The Pagan Law Firm at 212-967-8202 today and discuss your prescription error case.

What Are the Consequences of Prescribing or Giving the Wrong Medication?

When a patient receives the wrong medication, the results can be catastrophic. Medical negligence in the form of prescription drug errors can lead to several outcomes — each placing patients at risk.

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening hypersensitivity reaction. It happens when patients receive a prescription medication they’re allergic to and causes the airways to swell. When an episode occurs, a patient may experience cardiorespiratory arrest and even death.

For this reason, physicians prescribing medication must take a comprehensive health history to learn about a patient’s intolerance or allergies. Doing this will enable the physician to write a proper prescription.

Organ Malfunction or Failure

Organ malfunction or failure happens as a result of either a drug interaction or drug miscalculation. Interactions can result in medications staying in the bloodstream. Over time, the medications alongside other drugs can cause liver or kidney failure.

Toxicity can also happen when a patient receives the wrong dosage of medications. An elderly patient on an excessively high dose of medications may experience liver or kidney failure as a result of the drug miscalculation.

Delayed Recovery

Whether it’s the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of drugs, medication errors will impede a patient’s recovery. Any medical error that delays a patient’s recovery is an act of medical negligence.


Ultimately, unaddressed drug errors will cause serious harm and death. When a patient dies from a prescription medication error, the prescribing physician or other members of the health team become liable for the patient’s wrongful death. A family member who loses a loved one to a prescription drug error can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the negligent health workers or hospital.

If you or a loved one have experienced any of these consequences, you should speak with an expert attorney right away. Contact The Pagan Law Firm if you have any questions and want to schedule a free consultation.

The Compensation You Can Receive From a Prescription Error

If you or a family member is the victim of prescription medication errors, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against negligent parties. A successful medical malpractice claim entitles you to compensation that pays for damages resulting from the medical error.

Medical Expenses

After winning your medical malpractice lawsuit, you will receive financial compensation. The financial compensation pays for any out-of-pocket expenses you may have incurred during treatment. These include medical bills, doctor’s appointments, or any treatment-related expenses.

Lost Wages

A prescription drug error is a form of medical malpractice. As a type of medical malpractice, a prescription drug error will result in physical damage and serious injuries. If these injuries are severe enough to bar you from going to work, you may receive compensation for lost wages.

Pain and Suffering

Being a victim of medical malpractice can leave lasting emotional and psychological scars. For this reason, you can receive compensation for any pain and suffering resulting from your prescription drug error case.

Here at The Pagan Law Firm, our team of seasoned attorneys will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Schedule a free consultation today to get expert legal advice and see what compensation you might be able to receive.

How to Prove Your Healthcare Provider Was Negligent

To prove healthcare professional negligence, follow these steps.

Gather Documents

Proving that you’ve been given the wrong medication requires you to gather several documents. In particular, your prescription records will be useful in your prescription drug error case. They will show every drug you’ve received during treatment, and will also contain dosage information, meaning you’ll need these records to show you’ve been receiving the wrong dose.

Get Statements From Other Healthcare Providers

After gathering your medical and prescription records, you’ll need proof that you received the wrong medication. This is where the statements of other physicians or medical experts will come in. By checking with other physicians, you can establish that your prescribing doctor ordered the wrong drug or the wrong dose.

Call a New York Medical Malpractice Attorney

Doing all of this is necessary to strengthen your medical malpractice claim. However, you can’t win your lawsuit alone. You’ll need the help of medical malpractice attorneys. In particular, you’ll need lawyers who know about common prescription errors and have a track record in representing victims of medical malpractice.

Contact The Pagan Law Firm Today!

Prescription medication errors can lead to lasting injuries, disability, and even death. If you or a loved one is the victim of a prescription medication error or any other type of medical malpractice, we’re here to fight for you.

Our medical malpractice lawyers at The Pagan Law Firm have decades of experience representing victims of medical negligence. We offer a free consultation to victims of medical malpractice and accept cases on a contingency fee basis.

Call our medical malpractice attorneys today for your consultation. Reach us at (219) 544-5320 or click here

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