Multiple safety measures are in place to let doctors and pharmacists know that certain medications should not be mixed. Additionally, patients' medical records often indicate certain drugs that cause allergic reactions.
The reality, though, is that unsafe drug combinations leave thousands of patients sick or injured every year, and much of the harm caused by these medication errors is preventable.
How do these medication errors happen?
There are many otherwise safe medications that become extremely dangerous when a patient takes them at the same time, and medical professionals have known about many of these dangerous drug combinations for decades.
Still, patients continue to become ill because doctors and pharmacists ignore existing safety precautions.
For example, hospitals have computer systems that alert doctors to hazardous drug combinations. The Food and Drug Administration also places black box warnings on certain prescription drugs that are known to be risky.
In one recent case, a doctor ignored the black box warning about a potentially fatal drug mix. The pharmacy that dispensed the drug also failed to warn the patient, who had to be hospitalized when her immune system began attacking her own body because of the combination of medicines. She was left with permanent injuries.
In addition to ignoring or not being aware of the dangers, doctors and pharmacists also defer to each other's judgment, even when a prescribed combination is known to be hazardous. Too often, patients pay the price for this kind of failure to communicate among medical professionals.
The number of injuries and illnesses caused by bad drug combinations is likely much higher than current estimates.
The FDA does not require doctors and pharmacists to report instances of dangerous drug combinations, nor do most state medical and pharmacy boards have any such requirement. In fact, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, doctors and pharmacists hardly ever face penalties unless a patient brings an official complaint.
Consequently, we can't know with any certainty just how many people are harmed each year because of dangerous drug combinations.
Victims of medication errors deserve compensation for their injuries.
If you have been harmed because of medical negligence, then speak with a medical malpractice attorney about your legal options for receiving compensation. Holding medical professionals accountable can not only lead to reimbursement for a wide range of costs resulting from the injury; taking legal action can also help prevent similar errors from happening in the future.
At Davis & Davis, we represent victims of medical negligence throughout Texas. Please see our medical malpractice overview to learn more.