Can You Sue a Doctor for Overprescribing Medication?

January 5, 2024 / RP Legal

If you are harmed because a doctor overprescribes medication, you may qualify to bring a legal claim. To talk to a Columbia, SC medical malpractice lawyer about your rights and the compensation you may receive, call the Rikard & Protopapas law firm at 803-978-6111.

Lawsuits Against Doctors for Overprescribing Medication

Overprescribing medication occurs when a doctor gives a patient too much of a drug for the patient’s needs, considering the risks and benefits of the drug.

A drug may be overprescribed because it is more than is:

  • Needed
  • Beneficial
  • Wanted
  • Safe

The amount of medication a person should have depends on their situation.

Someone might need a drug in a higher concentration than someone else.

One person may need more frequent doses than another person. For each patient, the healthcare provider should authorize an amount that is appropriate for them – based on what is known about the drug and the condition of the patient.

Overprescribing medication may be a form of medical malpractice. Physicians must comply with standards of professional care in all aspects of patient treatment. When they prescribe too many drugs, or drugs in quantities that are too high, the doctor may be liable for harm that occurs.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Americans spend $603 billion each year on prescription medications. In other words, we consume a lot of prescription drugs. What happens when a person is given too many drugs? If you have been harmed because of overprescribing, you may qualify to claim compensation.

Drugs that Are Commonly Overprescribed

  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine, codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Antibiotics
  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Levothyroxine (for subclinical hypothyroidism)
  • Anti-depressants

Many types of drugs can be overprescribed. If you have been injured because you were given too much of a drug, you may qualify to claim compensation.

What are the effects of overprescribing a drug?

Some common dangers and side effects of being overprescribed a drug are:

  • Addiction
  • Interaction with other drugs
  • Organ damage, chronic body damage
  • Risk of falls
  • Depression, psychosis, mental health injury
  • Cognitive difficulties, alertness and memory trouble
  • Problems with antimicrobial resistance
  • Wrongful death

The effects of overprescribing medication vary significantly. A victim may suffer addiction, physical injury and mental injury.

Proving a Lawsuit for Overprescription

Overprescribing medication can be a type of personal injury case that applies professional standards of care of healthcare providers. The case seeks a finding of liability against the defendant and financial compensation for the victim.

A lawsuit for overprescription falls under South Carolina medical malpractice laws. S.C. Code § 15-79-110(6) defines medical malpractice as doing what a reasonable healthcare provider would not do, or failing to do what they would do. A reasonable healthcare provider would not overprescribe medication.

To prove a lawsuit for overprescribing medication, you must show that:

  1. You were under the care of the healthcare provider.
  2. The healthcare provider prescribed medication.
  3. You received too much medication. The doctor ordered too much there was a pharmacy error.
  4. Because you took too much medication, you suffered ill health effects.
  5. Damages resulting from your injuries, expressed in a dollar amount of compensation.

Any claim based on overprescribing relies heavily on expert testimony. A medical expert evaluates what the victim was prescribed and their medical history. They explain how overprescribing occurred and how it resulted in injury to the victim.

When is a medication overprescribed?

A doctor should prescribe medication in an amount calculated to be beneficial for the patient. To properly prescribe medication, a doctor should consider:

  • The patient’s medical condition and likely benefit from the drug
  • Whether the drug is known to be addictive
  • Likelihood of unwanted side effects, known side effects from the substance
  • What dose is appropriate and at what intervals
  • Potential for interactions with other drugs
  • Ability to track amounts used
  • Interventions if there are signs of addiction or unwanted side effects
  • Industry standards for amounts prescribed, including specifically for the patient’s condition

A patient must be treated holistically. The healthcare provider must weigh potential benefits and risks, considering the patient’s situation and the unique characteristics of any proposed medication.

Why are doctors under pressure to prescribe so many medications?

Doctors may feel pressure to prescribe so many medications because of the potential to profit. In addition, care may be fragmented between providers, and a doctor may be unknowingly treating a side effect of another drug without having a complete medical history. Doctors may participate in an industry culture of aggressively prescribing medication.

Legal Cases About Overprescribing Medication

McMaster v. DeWitt, Appellate Case No. 2013-000717 (S.C. Ct. App. 2014) – The victim sued for negligent prescription of Adderall. The victim claimed it caused psychosis, requiring hospitalization. The court ultimately dismissed the case saying that the plaintiff failed to comply with the statute of limitations. The case underscores the importance of contacting a lawyer quickly when you realize that harm may have occurred because of overprescribing.

Koon v. Walden, 539 S.W. 3d 752 (Mo.Ct.App. 2017) – A claim based on overprescribing opioids, causing addiction. The victim began taking opioids following a back injury. He received increased doses of medication despite showing signs of addiction. The case discussed the risk assessment that healthcare providers must conduct when considering drugs, including industry standards for opioid doses in cancer and non-cancer patients, respectively.

How a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in South Carolina Can Help

If you have concerns that you were given too much medication, or if you know that you were overprescribed, we invite you to talk to a lawyer at Rikard & Protopapas. You may qualify to receive compensation. Our lawyers can evaluate what happened and preserve valuable evidence. We work with expert witnesses to review the medical information and explain how you may have been harmed by overprescribing medication.

You may be able to sue a doctor for overprescribing medication. You must initiate your case and prove your right to compensation. A lawyer can represent you. Contact our law firm for a free case review. Call 803-978-6111 or message us today.

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