Often, a doctor may be relatively uninformed about the nature of a drug that he administers to a patient. Reasons for this include:

  • The doctor is curious about the drug
  • Advertising has led the doctor to believe that the new drug has been tried and is effective
  • The doctor's full tests show the drug to be without side effects
  • The media has led the doctor to believe that any physician who does not prescribe the drug is ?behind the times?
  • The doctor believes it may be the patient's best or only chance of recovery

When Can a Doctor Prescribe an Experimental Drug?

The various actions a doctor must perform in order to avoid medical malpractice liability for prescribing an experimental drug to his patient are:

  • Obtaining knowledge of the drug;s properties before prescribing it: It is good medical practice for a physician to research available literature to determine the risks of new drugs or medicines
  • Informing his patient of any studies undertaken on the drug and disclosing the risks involved in its usage
  • Obtaining his patient's informed consent (usually in writing) for usage of the drug: As long as the doctor has properly instructed his patient on all the drug's risks and alternative treatments, the patient's consent will lessen the doctor's risk of liability

What Malpractice Claims Arise from a Doctor Prescribing Experimental Drugs?

Prescribing a drug or medicine whose characteristics are not adequately known is evidence of negligence. The list below contains the bases for allegations of negligence (malpractice) on the part of a physician who prescribes a drug:

  • Failure to obtain informed consent for use of the drug
  • Failure to warn of the risks known to be associated with the drug, including warnings of early side effects
  • Failure to detect side effects when they first appear
  • Failure to perform tests before prescribing the drug to see if the patient should properly receive it
  • Prescription of an overdose of the drug or giving the drug for too long a period of time
  • Prescribing the wrong drug
  • Prescribing a drug on the basis of a misdiagnosis of the patient's condition so that the drug is useless or worse

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you were injured from taking an experimental drug, you may be able to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.  In addition, an attorney will help determine whether there are other parties that may be liable.