One of the most natural things for many is to see their doctor when they are sick or hurting and ask that medication be prescribed in order to help them feel better. This is especially true when they don't understand what is wrong, and they have not been able to get the help they need from over the counter medications. But prescriptions are not always safe for everyone, and when they are not properly distributed and monitored, it is possible that they could cause severe injury or death.
Classes of medication
One way that prescription medication is monitored on a broader scale is through FDA regulation and classification. Every medication is assigned a classification number between I-V, which helps to identify the potential for addiction and whether or not it is habit forming. Prescription medications are categorized between II- V, with II being the most addictive. Opiod pain medications, such as Vicodin and Percocet, are both examples of opiod pain medicines are the most highly controlled and most addictive, and have been the cause of many injuries and deaths when misused. Schedule IV drugs are benzodiazepines, and include drugs like Xanax and Valium, and are considered to be habit forming, but not addictive. It is these two classes that cause the most injuries and deaths.
Prescription drug monitoring programs
Except for the state of Missouri, every state participates in a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) that is designed to prevent prescription drugs from getting in the wrong hands, especially opiod medications. They track how much medication is prescribed to different people and whether different doctors are being used on the same patient. One fault in the programs is that they don't pay much attention to 85 percent of those who are prescribed medication -- those that have the same dosage prescribed month after month by the same physician. If patients skip doses, they could potentially be stockpiling drugs with little or no monitoring.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, deaths caused by prescription drugs has risen from just under 8,000 in 2000 to nearly 26,000 in 2014. Opiods alone have gone from 1.54 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 5.91 per 100,000 in 2014. Deaths caused by benzodiazepines have increased by 34 percent per year, and were five times higher in 2014 than in 2000.
Managing medication errors
Part of the reason why medications related injuries happen is due to medication errors. Some of those errors are made in monitoring, and just not knowing how much medication is being taken by the people who hold prescriptions and how much is taken by others. Tracking also does not always track other medications or supplements that a person might be taking, which may react adversely with a prescription. Harm can come if the wrong dose is taken, which can happen if the product is not properly dispensed. Facilities that are too busy or that don't encourage adequate communication can inadvertently miss important information, or miscalculate dosage amounts.
Taking expired medication also has its risks because the potency is compromised, and it is difficult to judge the dosage. Not only do doctors, nurses and pharmacy personnel need to inform patients when drugs are administered, but patients themselves need to be educated about the importance of taking their medications as prescribed, and disposing of any extras properly. They also need to be given proper instructions on how to watch for side effects that could lead to serious injuries, such as heart problems, increased chance of suicide and various birth defects. Failure to provide adequate warnings, and monitor for adverse effects may potentially be seen as neglect and cause for malpractice.
If you've been injured by improper management of prescription medications, or know someone who has lost their life because of it, a medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help you recover damages and get answers for your family.