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3 types of medication errors that can harm patients

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

Physicians can recommend a variety of different treatments to help patients manage their symptoms and the underlying conditions that cause their health issues. Prescription medication is one of the most popular forms of treatment.

A doctor can recommend medication to help someone control mental health challenges, lower their blood pressure or manage diabetes. When properly administered, medications can significantly improve someone’s quality of life. Unfortunately, medication errors are one of the leading sources of medical malpractice. Physicians can make errors, including the three mistakes below, that can cause significant issues for their patients.


Doctors are sometimes too eager to pull out their prescription pads when other options might be a better solution for a patient. Over-prescribing involves either writing a prescription when medication treatment is not strictly necessary or giving a patient too much of a medication that they may actually need. Doctors tend to over-prescribe mental health drugs to those who don’t technically meet the diagnostic criteria for different conditions. Despite the amount of scrutiny applied to opioid prescriptions, they are also a leading source of over-prescription issues. Doctors may give a patient too many refills, too high of a dose or too many pills at once. Any of those mistakes could lead to chemical dependence or an overdose.

Off-label drug use

Typically, drug manufacturers only seek federal approval for the use of a medication in one specific scenario. However, physicians have the option of prescribing a drug deemed reasonably safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for other purposes, a practice known as off-label prescribing. Doing so is not automatically medical malpractice, but it sometimes can be. For example, doctors sometimes use drugs in manners that directly contradict safety labeling. They may also fail to follow research that shows that certain off-label uses have higher risk levels for patients than others.

Inadequate supervision

Doctors need to ensure that patients take medication as recommended. They also need to evaluate whether the medication has the desired effect on the patient. In many cases, doctors also have to help patients cease taking a drug. Medications ranging from steroids to pain relievers can be very difficult for people to stop using without structured tapering by their physician. Improper supervision, including failing to taper a patient off of a medication, can lead to major medical consequences for the patient involved.

If a doctor deviates from best practices and a patient suffers harm as a result, the situation may constitute medical malpractice. Ultimately, pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit can compensate those harmed by physicians’ errors related to prescription medication.