When it comes to drug side effects, some are unavoidable risks that come with taking a medication. Others, though, can be avoided by heeding contraindications and warnings on product labels.
Under U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, contraindications are “never events.” A contraindication means that a drug should never be prescribed and filled, for any reason, under the listed circumstances. Some contraindications say that a medicine shouldn’t be taken by patients with a medical condition, like hypertension, an arrhythmia, or diabetes. Other contraindications require that a medicine shouldn’t be used while a person is taking certain other drugs, or even while those other drugs are still in the person’s system.
The standard of care requires physicians, physician’s assistants, and nurse practitioners to take a history, or interview patients, about their medical history, including prescription drugs. It’s important, by the way, for patients to be as detailed as possible in providing the requested information. If a provider prescribes a new drug without taking and documenting the patient history, that’s a medical mistake. Similarly, if a prescriber orders a new medication that’s contraindicated with another drug on the documented patient history, then it’s negligent.
Drug warnings are a step down from contraindications but are still important to consider. A warning means that there are potential dangers for people to take the prescription drug with listed medical conditions or other drugs. Unlike contraindications, though, it still may be appropriate to prescribe the medication in certain circumstances.
Prescribers are only part of the equation when it comes to prescription drug responsibility. Pharmacies also have a critical role. If you use the same pharmacy for all your prescription drugs—which is an excellent idea for your own drug safety—it will have a record of all drugs that you’ve filled.
The pharmacy computer system will warn the pharmacist or tech if there’s a manufacturer contraindication or warning for a new prescription with other prescriptions that the pharmacy filled.
For contraindications, this means that the pharmacy shouldn’t fill or dispense a prescription in certain circumstances.
For warnings about taking the new drug with other drugs the pharmacy sold to the patient, the pharmacy staff should call the prescribing provider and/or speak with the patient before filling or dispensing it.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.