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Pharmacy Malpractice

What is Pharmaceutical Malpractice?

Pharmacy malpractice is considered a form of medical malpractice and is caused by pharmacists, or pharmacy technicians, failing to competently perform their medical duties. Pharmacy malpractice can cause devastating, debilitating, and life-threatening complications.


A variety of injuries can occur as the result of pharmacy malpractice. These injuries can be evident immediately, or they may take years to show. Some serious medication injuries include:

  • Extreme illness
  • Allergic reactions
  • Overdose
  • Miscarriage
  • Organ failure
  • Death


Dosage Errors

  • This occurs when the pharmacist fills a prescription with a dose that is higher or lower than what was prescribed by the doctor.
  • Ex: A Florida woman died after a Walgreens pharmacist gave her a blood-thinner medication that was 10 times stronger than what her doctor had prescribed. Her family was awarded $25.8 million.

Incorrect Prescriptions

  • This can occur when the doctor prescribes the wrong medication, or when the pharmacist fills the wrong prescription.
  • Ex: A jury found a Walgreens pharmacist guilty of filling a prescription with the wrong medication, which ended up causing kidney failure and death to the patient.  The pharmacist admitted to abusing prescription pain killers at the time of the incident.

Patient/Prescription Mix-ups

  • This can occur when the pharmacist accidentally gives out the wrong prescription, or switches two patients’ prescriptions.
  • Ex: A Colorado Safeway Pharmacy mixed up two female patients’ prescriptions in 2011, giving a pregnant woman the abortion pill instead of an antibiotic.

Failure to Counsel Patient

  • Part of a pharmacist’s job is to provide information to the patient about possible drug interactions and complications.
  • Ex: A jury found that a Walgreens pharmacist failed to counsel a patient about the dangers of taking methadone and tramadol simultaneously, and failed to double-check the prescription with her doctor.  The patient died of a toxic drug interaction.

Prescribing Medication without a License

  • This may occur when an “internet pharmacy” fills a medication order online without a valid prescription.
  • Ex: U.S. Justice Department investigations have reportedly discovered 14 deaths or overdoses from drugs obtained illegally over the Internet.
  • Up to 1.5 million Americans suffer adverse health consequences due to pharmacy medication errors each year (Institute of Medicine).
  • About 7,000 deaths occur each year from incorrect prescriptions across the nation (Institute of Medicine).
  • Dispensing errors occur at a rate of four errors per day in a pharmacy filling 250 or more prescriptions daily (Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association).
  • 2,588 malpractice reports were made against pharmacists and pharmacy assistants in the U.S. from 1990-2003 (National Practitioner Data Bank).


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