In the practices of a pharmaceutical company, it is often the case that a drug be put on the market despite the fact that it may result in harmful side effects. In many instances, drugs are put on the market to treat a specific condition, but the exact “mechanism of action” is not known. This means that a drug may or may not treat the condition; though, if it does, the reason it is effective is unknown. This very fact alone has the potential to be dangerous. Even if a drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it is not necessarily a safe and efficacious means of treatment. Also, FDA approval does not mean a drug company can not be held liable for the detrimental effects of a medication.
In fact, it is the responsibility of the pharmaceutical company to not only themselves understand the possible dangers and side-effects of their medication, but to make certain the public is informed of the possible risks and consequences of taking the medication.
Simple over the counter drugs can be distributed with the use of written warnings and instructions both on the bottle and enclosed within the packaging. Prescription drugs, on the other hand, are compounds that must be administered by a trained physician. The physician acts as an intermediary in these cases, and though the physician is duty-bound to inform the patient of a drug’s possible side-effects, the pharmaceutical company is only required to inform the physician, rather than the public, of their drug’s potential risks. With the guidance of the physician, a patient can then make an informed decision as to whether or not to take the medication.
While the doctor is responsible for properly informing the patient, it is the pharmacist who is responsible for any mistakes made in the filling of a prescription drug. Today we are seeing the exponential growth of “online pharmacies,” and if you consider filling a prescription in this manner, there are steps you should take to protect yourself. For instance, checking the website to see if it is registered with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, as well as looking for the seal of the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site. Be conscious and wary of signing any “waivers of liability,” and watch out for hidden charges such as “consultation fees” and exorbitant shipping costs.
If you do, in fact, suffer the ill effects of a drug and plan to sue, the general theories of product liability apply: strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty. If the effects of the drug are due to a lapse on the physician’s part, a negligence suit may be filed against them. Drug companies, pharmacists and doctors hold positions in which trust and competence are of paramount importance, and if they fail in their duty to the patient, they should be held responsible.