Pharmacy Mislabeling Mistakes

The label on a bottle, container or vial of medication serves a critical purpose, letting the patient know what the medication is, the dose of the drug, the timing of taking the medication, and any drug interactions that might be harmful to the patient. The labels enable the patient to take the medication in the correct manner. However, if something is mislabeled, the consequences can be deadly.

Today's pharmacies have a monumental task. As modern medicine advances, more Americans are taking a greater number of prescriptions, which means the volume being handled by pharmacies is increasing, even in small mom and pop operations that continue to exist throughout the country. Our pharmacy error attorneys know this also means that there are greater chances for mistakes that can threaten the health and lives of patients everywhere.

Mislabeling a prescription involves misidentifying the drug in the container, printing improper use instructions on a drug label, or including insufficient or invalid warnings surrounding use of the drug.

The consequences of mislabeling include:

  • Dispensing the wrong medication — If a container is mislabeled, it may lead to a patient getting the wrong medication. There are cases where a medication was prepared and placed in the wrong container. In California, a woman brought a legal action against Walmart, which switched her two medications, leading her to take more than double her prescribed dose of her beta blocker blood pressure medication for two weeks, eventually leading to her heart stopping while riding a public bus.
  • Overdose Mistakes — The mislabeling of a drug can lead to fatal overdoses. This can occur when the medication in the container is supposed to be one dose, such as 5 mcg, and instead 50 mcg pills are dispensed in that bottle. This is becoming more of an issue with the rise of compounding pharmacies, which create smaller batches of unique or non mass-produced medications. In 2007, a Dallas compounding pharmacy created a batch of drugs that was up to 600 times more potent than it should have been, leading to three patient deaths and causing more than 130 patients to become sick.
  • Underdose Errors — Although these cases do not garner the national spotlight of many of the overdose or wrong medication cases, the issues of patients receiving less than a therapeutic dose of necessary medication are very important. A patient is prescribed a specific dose to correct a medical issue. If the dose does not meet therapeutic levels, then there is little or no health benefit. Studies have shown that these sub-therapeutic doses have serious consequences.
  • Toxicity and poisoning — Many drugs contain some risk of toxicity and poisoning if they are not prescribed properly because of the nature of radical treatments of certain diseases. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported a voluntary recall for Albuterol Sulfate Inhalation Solution by The Ritedose Corporation where the dose was five times more as indicated on the vial, creating a severe risk of toxicity. There are many situations where the patient realizes the error, such as the mother who called the pharmacy after her son was given directions to take 3.5 teaspoons of a medication rather than 3.5 milliliters, or the patient who was given a topical prescription by a doctor, but the pharmacy directions directed that it be taken orally. However, if these patients had not caught the mistake, the resultant harm could have been devastating.
  • Death as a result of mislabeling — The most tragic result of mislabeling is death of a patient as a result of the mistake. As discussed, the mislabeling that can lead to death includes the misidentifying the medication, misreporting the dosage, misstating the directions, or including misleading or erroneous instructions.

Mislabeling deaths are far more common than one would imagine. When a person gets a prescription filled at a pharmacy, he or she relies on the pharmacist to have placed the right medication in the container, included medication of the correct dosage, and provided the proper directions about how to take the medication. When these things do not happen, the consequences are tragic. This is becoming more and more of an issue with pharmacies throughout the country, but is magnified with compounding pharmacies that make small batches of drugs in specific amounts and ship them throughout the country. In Oregon, the deaths of several people and the illness of many were linked to the mislabeled drug colchicine, which was mislabeled and contained eight times the dose indicated.

There is an organization dedicated to the prevention of harmful medication errors and the safe use of medications that has some basic suggestions for pharmacies to avoid mislabeling errors. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has the following suggestions that pharmacies should follow:

  • A pharmacy should never abbreviate drugs names in the prescription label;
  • When a prescription is filled with a generic version of the drug, the label should not include the salt of the chemical, which can be confusing;
  • When filling a prescription with a generic drug, both the generic drug name and the brand name should be included on the label;
  • The label should include extensive patient identifying information, including date of birth and/or the patient's address; and
  • The label should include a description of the medication, along with a picture, if possible.

If a person has experienced a pharmacy mislabeling error, it is important to stop using the medication as soon as possible and get emergency medical care. Mislabeling errors can have immediate and/or long-term effects. In order to bring a successful action against the pharmacy that mislabeled the drug, a person will need to show:

  • The pharmacy owes the person bringing the suit a duty of care to fill the prescription in the manner dictated by the patient's doctor — the patient will have to show the instructions as issued by the doctor.
  • The pharmacy failed in that duty — the patient will have to show that the medication dispensed was not the one prescribed. Medical experts can provide that information in order to show that the pharmacy mislabeled the medication.
  • The patient suffered harm that he or she would not have suffered if the medication was dispensed in the manner prescribed. This harm may only last a few weeks or can be significant long-term injury. In the worst cases, the mislabeling error will lead to the death of the patient and the legal action will be brought by a legal representative.

The medical attention that was sought after discovering the medication labeling error will be a very important part of the case. Medical experts also will play a critical role in letting the jury know the danger in which the pharmacy placed the patient by filling the prescription in a negligent manner.

Consult With An Experienced Personal Injury Law Firm That Can Get You Justice

Miami medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at AV rated* Greenberg Stone & Urbano have spent more than three decades representing patients in legal actions against negligent pharmacists and other medical professionals. Our trial lawyers who have been selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers list are knowledgeable medical experts with whom they regularly work to paint a clear picture of the harm that our clients suffered as a result of the extreme negligence of someone who owed the highest duty of care to a person. We also work with financial experts who can explain the monetary devastation suffered by our clients as the result of the mistake.

For A Free Consultation Call 888-499-9700 Or 786-408-8973

If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of a pharmacy mislabeling error, call the South Florida personal injury attorneys of Greenberg Stone & Urbano today for a free consultation. You can also contact us online. We offer legal services in English and Spanish, and we are available 24/7 via email and answering service.

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