Can I claim compensation for an unsafe drug prescription?

Prescription drugs are often considered to be safe because they are legal and prescribed by doctors. People suffering from medical conditions often find that their medication improves their quality of life, and lessens pain and suffering.

Doctors have a responsibility to monitor patients while taking medicine. If they fail to fulfil this responsibility, patients can be at risk of serious illness or even death and there could be scope for seeking compensation for medical or clinical negligence.

Which prescription drugs should be carefully monitored by doctors?

Doctors have a duty to be vigilant with all their patients, and to ensure that any medication is ingested at safe levels whilst monitoring therapeutic benefits. Some groups of drugs can be especially potent and potentially unsafe if taken incorrectly, such as:

  • Anti-epileptics, such as Phenytoin and Carbamazepine
  • Antibiotics, such as Gentamicin and Teicoplanin
  • Anti-psychotics, such as Lithium
  • Cardiac glycosides, such as Digoxin
  • Bronchodilators, such as Aminophylline
  • Other drugs such as immunosuppressants and trycyclic antidepressants

What are the potential consequences if prescription drug levels are not checked carefully by doctors?

If doctors do not ensure that the patient is taking the correct dosage of medication, the dose can become toxic and cause serious harm. Drugs can have a wide variety of side effects and these can become more serious where prescribed dosage is exceeded. These side effects can include

  • Confusion and slurred speech
  • High blood sugar
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Going into a coma
  • Kidney failure
  • Hearing problems
  • Seizures
  • Heart failure

For example, Lithium toxicity can initially 'present as' feeling shaky, and the patient might suffer from diarrhoea. If no action is taken at this stage, the patient might lose their mobility and experience feelings of being confused and disorientated. In extreme cases the person could enter a coma with a possible risk of death. If the patient is fortunate enough to survive Lithium toxicity, the person could find themselves suffering from long term issues such as slurred speech and a poor memory.

What should you do if you have suffered because of unsafe repeat prescriptions?

If your health has suffered because your doctor has failed to ensure that your body is absorbing medicine at safe levels, it is likely that you will have a case for clinical negligence. The Quittance panel of solicitors is experienced at dealing with cases such as this, and can advise you accordingly. Your solicitor may ask you for details such as:

  • When your condition was first diagnosed, and by whom
  • What medication you have been prescribed, and how long you have been taking it for
  • Who prescribes your medication - has the same doctor been responsible throughout your treatment, or have you been transferred from consultant to GP care?
  • How often do you visit the doctor responsible - are you required to attend every fortnight, or every month?
  • What impact the medication has had on your well-being, both physical and mental
  • Has your prescription (rather than the illness itself) affected your quality of life?

If your health has suffered because of drugs being prescribed at unsafe levels, or because the doctor has failed to monitor your reaction to these drugs, you could have a strong case for compensation. You should collate as much information as possible to support your claim, so that your solicitor is well equipped to ensure that you can achieve some form of redress for what has happened.