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Doctors can minimize the chance of dangerous prescription errors

Medication errors are among the most common reasons for malpractice suits. Antibiotics and painkillers are the two types of medications most often involved in these errors. Many of these errors are preventable if the appropriate precautions are taken.

One medical malpractice attorney recommends that doctors follow some basic protocols when prescribing medications to patients to minimize the chances of a malpractice suit.

Don't renew pain medications unless a patient is on a treatment plan

He recommends that doctors refer patients who have been on painkillers for three months and reported no improvement to a pain specialist. He also recommends not renewing pain meds without having the patient come in for a visit.

Check the state online database for controlled substance prescriptions

People with addictions to painkillers often go to multiple providers to get medications. Online databases track all of a patient's prescriptions. Ask patients about their other prescriptions, but check the database as well -- sooner rather than later.

Thoroughly document changes in a patient's condition when prescribing antibiotics.

Doctors often hesitate to prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic until they get a patient's lab results back because these broad-spectrum medications can cause people to build up a resistance to antibiotics. However, if an infection has begun to worsen or spread within a few days, that narrow-spectrum antibiotic isn't doing the trick. The attorney advises, "Articulate your decision-making process…."The more specificity the better."

The attorney also advises doctors to stay informed about any changes to prescription guidelines for the medications they recommend. When pharmaceutical companies make their drugs "better, stronger, faster," doctors need to adjust how they prescribe them.

As a patient, you may find some of these hands-on precautions somewhat annoying. However, you should be more concerned about a doctor who prescribes medications -- particularly painkillers and antibiotics -- with little or no follow-up or without asking you about what other medications you're taking.

If you are injured because of a prescribed medication, it may be worthwhile to determine whether that harm could and should have been prevented. An attorney experienced in handling malpractice cases can help you determine whether you have a case.

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