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Unsafe Medication and Personal Injury Laws

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What Are Unsafe Medications?

Unsafe medications are those that pose a risk of harm to consumers or are considered to be unreasonably dangerous. Ideally, manufacturers of medications will fully research the nature and effects of medicines and drugs before releasing them into the market. 

However, simply because a medicine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not always mean that the product is absolutely safe. Also, FDA approval does not shield a manufacturer from liability for harm caused by the product.

Most losses from unsafe medications may be recovered by filing a lawsuit against the company. Depending on the nature of the injury or loss, such claims can involve a number of different legal theories, including: strict liability violations, negligence, or a breach of warranty. Legal recovery for losses usually includes a damages award covering any expenses caused by the injury.   

What Are the Responsibilities of Drug Manufacturers to the Public?

Generally speaking, the duties of drug manufacturers mostly have to do with informing the public of any risks associated with the medication. Under most state and federal personal injury laws, manufacturers of medicines are required to:

  • Research and thoroughly understand the product’s dangers and side effects
  • Take steps to ensure that the public is well-informed of any risks or circumstances that might make the medication unsafe to take

For most over-the-counter non-prescription medicines, manufacturer warnings are usually conveyed through proper warning labels or enclosures in the packaging. However, prescription drugs require the supervision of an “intermediary” such as a trained physician or specialist. With regards to prescription drugs, health and safety standards may be different.

Can Doctors or Physicians Be Held Liable for Drug Injuries?

Prescription medicines usually do not pass directly from the manufacturer to the consumer. Instead, prescription medicines are distributed through an intermediary, i.e., a doctor or physician. The doctor will research the patient’s condition and determine which medicines are required for treatment.

For manufacturers of prescription medicines, they usually have a duty to warn the doctor, but not the consumer. In many cases, so long as the manufacturing company informs the doctor of the risks, they have fulfilled their duty to warn. This means that the doctor might be held liable, rather than the manufacturer, especially if:

  • The doctor has prescribed the wrong type of medicine for the illness
  • The doctor has prescribed a defective product or one that is unsafe, outdated, or has been recalled
  • The doctor has made an error with regard to dosage or instructions

Can a Pharmacist Be Held Liable for Drug Injuries?

Once the doctor prescribes a medicine, they usually do not fill the order themselves. Instead, a trained pharmacist will take the prescription directions, and fill the order by supplying the required product in the correct dosages. 

Under personal injury laws, pharmacists may be held liable for any mistakes made when filling prescriptions. For example, if the pharmacist supplies more or less than the required amount, they may be held liable if the patient becomes ill due to the error.  In other words, pharmacist malpractice may cause a medication to become unsafe due to a wrong dosage, even if the product in itself is generally considered to be safe.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Unsafe Medication and Personal Injury Issues?

If you have any questions or issues involving unsafe medication and personal injuries, you may wish to consult with a lawyer for advice. Proving who caused the injury can sometimes be difficult. Unsafe medication claims involve a complex chain of interaction between the manufacturer, the doctor, and the pharmacist. An experienced personal injury lawyer may be needed to determine which party is liable and what type of legal remedies are available.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-14-2015 11:22 AM PDT

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