According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, each year, nearly 1.3 million Americans suffer from illnesses and injuries as a result of pharmaceutical mishaps, and it is reported that one person dies each day due to medication errors. These errors particularly affect elderly Americans, and with the increasing population of elderly Americans in Florida, it is important to be aware of how your pharmaceutical regimen can be causing you harm.
Pharmaceutical Regulation in the United States
The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is the primary entity responsible for ensuring the proper testing, labeling, and recall of approved pharmaceuticals in the United States. It reports that medication errors can occur anywhere in the distribution process, including, but not limited to, the following:
Surprisingly, there are few pharmaceutical errors that result from the proper prescription and administration of the medication itself. For example, it is rare that taking a dose of pain medication for a week as prescribed is going to cause serious or fatal injury. Most injuries occur because of a physician, labeling, or dosage errors, and the FDA reports that these errors are commonly caused by:
- A misunderstanding between a patient and the treating physician
- Lack of clarity or confusion regarding product names or directions for use
- Poor distribution techniques
- Patient misuse
- Job stress
- Lack of knowledge regarding the product
Most Common Pharmaceutical Induced Illnesses and Injuries
Because every drug you take enters your bloodstream, all drugs will pass through your kidneys, as your body will attempt to naturally filter out unwanted toxins. If you do not take drugs as prescribed or you were prescribed too high a dose of such drugs, your kidneys are often injured as a result of this increase in toxins. This can cause an overall decrease in kidney function and an increase in blood toxins, which may cause you to suffer from severe illness. Similarly, many drugs and toxins are also filtered through your liver, and such toxins may build up in your liver after a continuous course of drug use. This may result in liver failure, which is ultimately fatal. Liver and kidney failure are among the most common injuries suffered from as a result of pharmaceutical errors.
Improper Dosage Injuries
Even if a prescription drug in itself is not harmful in prescribed doses, if the medication is improperly labeled or prescribed incorrectly, it can cause serious injury and even death depending on the medication. Prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, cause most overdose deaths because they affect the part of the brain that controls breathing. Accordingly, an overdose can slow or stop your breathing to the point where suffocation is drug induced. However, even an overdose of anti-anxiety drugs has been known to result in fatalities because they can either affect your breathing or cause such disorientation that you may injury yourself. Improper dosage injuries are not clear-cut, as some patients who have taken a drug over a long period of time may develop a tolerance to its effects and, as such, may require a larger dose of the drug to induce injury. Further, body weight, age, size, and gender should all be considered when prescribing a drug, as the smaller your body mass, the less of a dosage your body will be able to process safely. Unfortunately, if a physician is untrained in pharmaceuticals, he or she may not account for all of these factors. Further, if a drug is mislabeled to reflect the wrong dosage for the wrong age group, then this may also result in severe injuries or fatalities.
By far, one of the most common reasons for pharmaceutical injuries and death is the improper mixture of drugs, especially if those drugs are mixed with alcohol. Some drug combinations may prove fatal, such as mixing prescription drug medications (opiates) with anti-depressants (benzos). However, as you can imagine, this is not uncommon, as those who are in great pain often develop depression. While your pain management doctor may prescribe pain medication, you may go see a psychologist who prescribes anti-depressants. Without asking the right questions, you may suffer from a fatal combination of drugs that can put you in a coma and stop your breathing. This is serious medical malpractice, and if you have experienced adverse effects after taking a prescription medication when you were already taking certain other medications, you should contact a Florida medical malpractice attorney immediately.
Pharmaceuticals and Pre-Existing Conditions
Occasionally, a medication that would not ordinarily harm a healthy individual may adversely affect an individual with a pre-existing condition. For example, if you suffer from a genetic disorder called hemophilia, which causes your blood not to clot, if you are prescribed blood thinning medication even a small open wound may prove fatal. Further, diabetics must be careful with their own medication, as too much insulin may cause a drop in blood sugar that causes your brain to lose oxygen.
Contact a Clearwater Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
With the plethora of pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medications, and individual differences between patients, medication mishaps are common in the medical profession. Whether the patient does not reveal his or her pre-existing conditions or medications, multiple doctors are treating the patient, or the patient misunderstands prescription instructions, such errors are common and may cause an illness or injury that you cannot otherwise explain. If you experienced an injury you believe was the result of a prescription medication, such as an auto accident caused by being prescribed too much of an anti-depressant or liver and kidney failure after long-term use, it is important to contact an attorney who understands the intricacies of pharmaceutical law and has the expert pharmacists you need to get you the compensation you deserve.
Whether it was an error on the part of your doctor, the FDA, or the drug company, Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you get the compensation you deserve. Its attorneys are your premier medical malpractice and pharmaceutical attorneys in the greater Clearwater area, and they are here to fight for you. Contact them today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.