The choice to prescribe medication to a patient is one of the more common solutions for someone’s symptoms. There are medications that can help people lose weight, control their blood sugar or lower their blood pressure. Medications can significantly improve someone’s quality of life or potentially even cure the underlying condition causing their symptoms.
People also refer to prescription medications as controlled substances. Members of the general public cannot access these drugs without the recommendation of a professional. Physicians are gatekeepers that help ensure people receive the right medication in the right dose. Unfortunately, medication errors on the part of a physician are surprisingly common. The following are the most common ways that doctors endanger their patients when prescribing drugs.
Performing a poor review of their medical history
Looking over a patient’s medical records is an important part of the prescribing process. Someone’s medical records may include information about prior medical experiences they have had and their family history. An adverse reaction to a certain class of drugs or a family history of poor reactions could be an indicator that a doctor should test a patient or prescribe an alternative drug.
Doctors also need to look for contraindications and check what other medications someone currently takes to avoid a scenario in which they end up at unnecessarily elevated risk of a bad reaction. Dangerous drug interactions are an example of a preventable prescribing error.
Many patients would prefer not to return to their doctor’s office every time they need to refill a prescription, and they may have a copay every time they pick up a refill. Doctors sometimes try to meet these patients halfway by providing multiple months of medication at once when possible. Over-prescribing may lead to patients taking too much medication and could also increase the chances of someone using a prescription drug or reselling it on the unregulated market.
Failing to monitor the patient
Doctors should communicate with those starting new medications to check for warning signs of an allergic reaction or other medical issues. They also need to follow up with a patient to make sure they complete their regimen. In cases involving drugs that cause chemical dependence, including pain relievers and steroids, doctors often need to take special steps to slowly reduce someone’s dose so that they can come off the medication safely and effectively.
Failures in any of these areas might lead to negative outcomes for patients. Recognizing when a doctor did not follow best practices could help people understand when they may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.