When a drug combination causes adverse effects

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If a doctor was moving too fast and failed to consider the potential for adverse reactions when prescribing medications, a medical malpractice action might be a remedy. A New York Court of Appeals court recently looked at the standard for summary judgment when negligence is alleged in these types of cases.

Summary judgment may be requested when the facts are not in controversy and a Judge can rule by applying the law. This can be technical and in med mal cases usually relies on expert opinions. What we found of more interest for a general audience were the facts in Pullman v. Silverman.

A permanent Pacemaker

The allegations related to a prescription for Lipitor, which is prescribed to many aging Americans to reduce “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. In the case, the patient was also on an antibiotic called azithromycin that treats bacterial infections.

The patient suffered from a cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythm. A worsening condition and a heart blockage resulted in the need for surgery and a permanent pacemaker.

When the number of medications prescribed increases the risk for adverse effects does too. To avoid these issues in the first place, you need to be your own advocate. Keep a list of all your prescriptions and bring it to each medical appointment. Specialization may mean you see different doctors and while electronic records should include all your medications, you never know what might get missed.

If an unusual side effect occurs or the timing of an illness coincides with the addition of a medication, speak with an attorney who knows how to identify medication errors.

What caused the adverse reaction?

Causation is usually the issue in these cases. In this one, the doctor argued that his actions were not the proximate cause and asked the court to grant summary judgment to stop the case from proceeding toward trial. The party who requests summary judgment has the burden of proof.

While the First Department granted summary judgment to the doctor, the appeals court disagreed and overturned the decision. The expert affidavit was found to be lacking, which meant that defendant could not meet his burden of proof.

As this brief summary of this case demonstrates this is a complicated area of the law. If you have concerns following a drug reaction contact an attorney to get more information.

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