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Your guide to medication prescription errors

Spilled pill containers

The incorrect dosage prescribed by your GP or an error in making up your prescription at a hospital or pharmacy can be very serious and have life-threatening consequences.

When an avoidable mistake is made with your prescription, you can suffer a number of short term  symptoms such as  headaches, dizziness or sickness to more serious damage affecting organs, such as the kidneys, which potentially can be fatal.

Adverse reaction...

Incorrect medication or dosage may not only cause injury to health but can also leave you without the medication you actually need or trigger an adverse reaction when mixed with their other types of medication.

Of course we take each of the steps from receiving an accurate diagnosis,  being prescribed the appropriate medication,  receiving the correctly made-up prescription  for granted. 

Yet at each step of the way, you are entitled to receive proper care from the professional who is treating you,  which also means receiving the correct medication and the right dosage. Your doctor or pharmacy will be liable for negligence or errors made in either prescribing or dispensing your medication.

Our specialist  clinical negligence team at Your Legal Friend are  experienced in finding out why you may have suffered a preventable injury caused by a medication prescription error. We can help you bring those  responsible to account, and crucially, ensure you obtain an explanation, an apology and compensation for subsequent harm caused.

Medication prescription errors are more frequent than you think... 

There are currently more than 26,000 adverse drug reaction (ADR) reports caused by medication errors, each year.

  • At Hospital,  3 - 8 per cent of all prescription items.
  • At a General Practice,  5 per cent of prescriptions, of which 0.18 per cent were serious errors.
  • At community pharmacies, up to 3.3 per cent of dispensed medicines.

Of the one billion annual prescription items prescribed by NHS in England primary care:

  •  1.8 million serious prescribing errors are predicted each year.

 (NHS England - Stage Three: Directive -Improving medication error incident reporting and learning - March 2014)

What are the common prescription and dispensing errors?

An error can occur at any stage:

  • When your doctor decides what medication and dosage you need and then writes out the prescription.
  • When the prescription is being made up and the wrong medication or dosage is dispensed at the pharmacy.

Prescription errors

  • Incorrect dosage – prescribed at a higher or lower dosage than required.
  • Incorrect medication –  due to misdiagnosis  or just not suitable for either patient or condition.
  • Incompatible medication - with existing patient medicines or pills.
  • Patient allergy – to an ingredient within the prescribed medication.
  • Adult dosage - prescribed for a child.
  • Unchecked repeat prescriptions – not regularly reviewed by GP during patient progress.
  • Illegible handwriting  - leads to incorrect medication being made up or stated dosage.

Dispensing errors

  • Incorrectly issued - the right medication issued to the wrong patient.
  • Incorrect labelling – the right label attached to the wrong medication.
  • Incorrect dosage - dispensed by pharmacist.

Check for medication prescription errors...

While a growing range of advanced medication is now available in packets, sachets and bottles, pharmacists will often be required to make up a patient prescription according to a doctor’s instructions. Despite of strict controls to maintain the highest standards, pharmacists can still make an error.


Contraindications are health-related conditions which are incompatible with a  medicine or treatment. To ensure that a particular medication is not going to cause harm, the pharmacist is required to request specific information from the patient or their doctor when dispensing certain medicines.

If you find an error has been made with your prescription...

Although you are responsible for advising your doctor in advance of any allergies or health conditions, you should always check that the medicine, pills or lotions received, and the stated dosage, match the original prescription.

Your first step... is to bring your concerns that an error may have occurred with your prescription to the attention of the relevant doctor, hospital or pharmacy.

Making a clinical negligence claim...

If you  have suffered a serious illness or injury as a result of  a prescription or dispensing error, you may have good grounds for making a clinical negligence claim.

To make your case for a medication prescription error...

You must be able to establish two key points:

  • That the doctor or pharmacist has failed in their duty to you, that is that they have failed to provide you with the proper standard of treatment that you had the right to expect.  When we assess what is the proper standard of care we compare what a responsible professional who was trained and  qualified would have done and compare that with what has happened to you.  If your treatment fell short, you have evidence of substandard care.
  • The substandard care must have caused an adverse reaction, illness or injury  as a direct result of consuming the wrongly-prescribed or issued medication.

How Your Legal Friend can help you..

As experienced clinical negligence specialists we know that if you or a member of your family have received an incorrect medication or an error in your prescription , you will feel the system has  let you down and may even have caused you harm.

We are committed to obtain answers for you and to find out why the procedures in place failed to prevent an error being made in your case, and to seek  compensation for remedial treatment and suffering caused.