Pharmacists make mistakes, and just like doctors, nurses, hospitals, or other medical professionals, they are liable for medical malpractice when they hurt others due to their negligence. People are hurt by neglectful, careless, inattentive, insufficiently trained, hurried, or otherwise negligent pharmacists who fail to uphold their duty of care when dispensing prescription drugs. Sadly, the most vulnerable populations suffer harm to the greatest degree, including children. In all medical facilities, outpatient, inpatient, and emergency rooms, children are especially vulnerable to prescription errors. In fact, among the over 200,000 medication errors that occur each and every year in the United States, approximately 30 percent affect children. Likewise, children who take multiple medications due to chronic illness are especially at risk for suffering harm when medications do not mix or are given incorrectly, whether it be the medication itself, the dosage, the amount, or the formulation.
With children of all ages, one single mistake by a pharmacist or a pharmacy employee can alter the trajectory of their life permanently, injuring or even causing fatal harm to the child. In the eyes of the law, pediatric medical malpractice lawsuits against pharmacists that fail to perform their duties properly or follow recommended protocols can help injured children recover their health and wellbeing and provide for their long-term needs with financial assistance.
Top 7 Most Common Pharmacy Mistakes that May Cause Child Injuries
Dispensing the Wrong Medication
According to a 2017 study published in the BMJ Open Quality Journal, confusing different medications occurs in approximately one out of 100 prescriptions in the U.S. Granted, medication names may be similar and cause a rushed pharmacist to misread a prescription and fill it with the wrong medication. For example, methylphenidate and methadone may look alike at a quick glance. However, methylphenidate treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while methadone treats opioid addictions. Both may come in the same doses, 10 milligrams, from the same manufacturer, but they have completely different effects. Methylphenidate is a stimulant, and methadone is opiate. They may be shelved together or stacked on a computer screen. The consequences of taking methadone for a grade school child may be permanent damage, even death.
Giving the Incorrect Dosage
Another common error for pharmacists or their employees is the critical dosage error. Medicines work best at a specific strength. If a patient does not get enough or too much of a medication, their condition could worsen or they could overdose, among other severe consequences.
Administering the Wrong Drug Strength
Another error related to incorrect dosage is the wrong medication strength, for example, giving a child medication meant for an adult. The child who takes medication too strong for them can suffer severe side effects, organ damage or organ failure. A mistake of medication strength may occur by misreading the doctor’s orders or miscommunicating how to take the medication when the child’s parent or caregiver picks up their medication. Pharmacists or their technicians must explain how to take the medication, confirm patient allergies, discuss side effect warnings, and confirm the child’s other medications to avoid causing harm.
Giving a Prescription to the Wrong Patient
In pharmacies, patients may receive the wrong medication when the container is erroneously labeled with the patient’s name. Children are especially susceptible to patient confusion by pharmacy staff since most often, the child is not retrieving the prescription for themself. Oversight and haste cause many other errors regarding prescription at the pharmacy level, and the wrong patient receiving someone else’s medication can happen to a child with devastating costs.
Giving Expired Medicine
A pharmacist may also be liable for dispensing expired medication, which can lead to ineffective treatment for a serious condition when the medication is not strong enough. Illnesses may linger longer without prompt treatment, and some diseases and illnesses like cancer or infections are deadly if not treated with the right medication at the right time. In addition, some medication may change their chemical makeup after expiration or grow harmful bacteria, causing life-threatening illness to a child.
Dispensing the Wrong Drug Formulation
Giving a patient the wrong formulation of a drug can lead to similar types of harms of other errors, lingering conditions, overdoses, or fatal reactions. A pharmacist’s job is to prepare drugs according to a doctor’s instructions. If they cannot read the doctor’s order, confuse drug names, or formulate a medication incorrectly by adding a harmful ingredient, the ramifications can include severe side effects for a young child, organ damage, or even death. An example is adding a compound to a child’s sleep disorder mixture with quick release as opposed to slow-release ingredients, causing the child to overdose and die.
Improper Prescription Instructions to a Child’s Parent
Finally, other mistakes that occur at pharmacies involve providing the wrong instructions to the parent of a child who has been prescribed a specific medicine. While oversights and errors do occur at times, pharmacists have a duty not to make mistakes that can jeopardize the health and welfare of the many children who count on them for appropriate prescriptions and medications. They must verify that a prescribed drug is the right one for a patient and will not harm them by reviewing the drug’s use with the patient’s parent and fixing errors if there are any, including checking with the prescriber.
Potential Consequences for Children Victims of Pharmacy Errors
A pharmacist’s job is chiefly to dispense drugs. When they give the wrong medication to someone, they risk harming the unsuspecting recipient. When that someone is a child, the risk grows as a young child may not be able to communicate or even know what they feel until tragedy strikes. For example, when a pharmacist fails to double check a prescription, they can cause a child to suffer injuries when they have an adverse reaction to the medication. A child may be allergic to certain medications, endangering their lives. Without knowing the cause of a child’s reaction, a doctor may not realize a that child needs an antidote before going into anaphylactic shock. Additionally, some medications can have debilitating side effects or cause internal damage when taken for no medical reason or in the wrong dosage. Some of the most frequently-seen complications and severe injuries from pharmacy mistakes that impact children include overdose, seizures, brain damage, heart attack, organ damage or failure, coma, and death.
Filing a Lawsuit when a Child has been Injured by Pharmacy Negligence in New Jersey
When pharmacists fail to counsel patients or their parents on the correct use of medication, read the physician’s orders carefully, dispense the correct medication and dosage, and verify a patient’s other medications, they may severely harm children. When that happens, the child’s parents have the legal option to sue the pharmacist for their negligence resulting in the child’s injuries. It might not bring a child back to the way they were before the wrongful conduct by a pharmacy employee, but it may help defray the costs of continuing treatment and financial burdens on a family caring for a child who has been gravely harmed. If the negligence causing injury is fatal for a child, a parent may have a pediatric wrongful death action against those liable.
When suing the pharmacist or pharmacy, you must prove that their negligence in formulating, dispensing, or instructing the child’s parent caused the damage. Moreover, if a pharmaceutical company manufactured a defective medication or product that led to the child’s injury, you may have grounds to sue the company in a product liability action. Seeking counsel from a knowledgeable pediatric malpractice attorney is imperative when you need help determining liability, establishing just cause for a lawsuit, and handling all of the necessary steps in the legal process to obtain financial damages.
Talk to a NJ Pharmacy Malpractice Lawyer for Help with Your Child’s Case
If a pharmacy error injured your child, contact our experienced pediatric malpractice lawyers for advice, guidance, and assistance recovering just compensation for your child’s injuries. Our team has handled countless malpractice lawsuits on behalf of children and we can educate you about the medical malpractice lawsuit process in New Jersey. With decades of experience and a particular focus in malpractice law involving children and babies, we can prepare you for and successfully handle every phase of the claim process, from pre-lawsuit negotiations to arguing your case to a jury and proving the true value your child is entitled to. Contact (866)-708-8617 to speak with a New Jersey pharmacy malpractice attorney about your child’s case now. You can also request a free legal consultation online and a member of our team will reach out to you shortly.
Additional Information and Resources: