Medication errors are a common source of medical malpractice claims. In a recent article, I learned about a certain type of medication error that I had previously been unaware of, but I will certainly be on the lookout for now. Apparently, there have been many instances where a doctor cancels a prescription but the pharmacy continues to fill it. So, the patient continues to receive the medicine, thereby putting the patient at unnecessary, and possibly deadly, risk.
The Annals of Internal Medicine reported that 3 in 200 orders to cancel prescription medicines do not get through to the pharmacy in a timely basis. Worse yet, “
The reason for this problem is largely institutional, like many defects in healthcare delivery that result in medication errors. For one, cancellation orders are out of the ordinary. Second, unwary or elderly patients obtain the medicine despite their physician’s desire to cancel it, so there is some element of poor patient education or miscommunication at play. Third, electronic medical records may alert a pharmacy when a prescription is ordered but not when it is cancelled. The survey was not able to study physician factors that may contribute to inappropriately refilled prescriptions.
Adverse consequences of inappropriately refilled prescriptions included allergic reactions to medications, dangerous interactions with other prescribed drugs and other adverse effects from the drugs to be discontinued. In Ohio, when a physician’s order is not followed, irrespective of the circumstance, the patient may have a claim for medical negligence. (Note: “Medical malpractice” and “medical negligence” mean the same thing under Ohio law. Those terms are used interchangeably in this blogpost.)