Pharmacy Errors: Who is Responsible?

According to a recent lawsuit, a Bronx pharmacy may have given a seven year old boy a dangerous dose of Methadone – a non-narcotic drug used to relieve moderate and severe pain. According to the lawsuit, the child’s doctor prescribed Ritalin, a common ADD and ADHD medication. After rushing her son to the emergency room, the child’s mother showed doctors her son’s prescription. Only then was it discovered that he had been given methadone instead of methylphenidate (generic Ritalin). Research revealed that these two medications have been confused by pharmacies in the past.

Not only are their names similar, but both medications are usually stamped with an “M” in a box. Additionally, methadone and methylphenidate are usually prescribed in similar dosages. When a young child takes methadone instead of Ritalin, the consequences may be fatal. The error can easily result in respiratory problems, liver failure, strokes, severe brain damage, coma – even death. After seven days in the hospital for respiratory and cardiovascular problems, the seven year old from the Bronx still complains of chest pains.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned pharmacies more than ten years ago that the two medications are easy to confuse. The warning was issued after an eight year old boy died because he was given the wrong drug. Legally, the pharmacy may be held liable for their negligence. In this particular case, the prescribing physician is not at fault; the original prescription was correct. On the other hand, the pharmacy may not be completely responsible for the boy’s illness – the pharmacy may try to hold the mother somewhat responsible, too.

Why? In cases like this, the mother may be considered negligent because she failed to examine the bottle before administering the drug. This is called contributory negligence. Contributory negligence occurs when the plaintiff causes some or all of the accident or injury and common strategy used by defense attorneys to limit liability on behalf of their clients. If a jury finds that the mother of the young boy was negligent because she didn’t review the medication before giving it to her son, she could be held legally responsible for his illness and injury.

Liability could also be divided between the mother and the pharmacy. In short, the contributory negligence defense maneuver claims that “We may have messed up, but we didn’t do it alone.” At the Law Firm of Steven I. Fried, we are ready to handle pharmaceutical error cases. If you or a loved one has been hurt because a pharmacy filled a prescription incorrectly, call our office today. The sooner we hear from you, the faster we can begin constructing an aggressive and effective case strategy to help you get the financial compensation you need and deserve.