Prescribing physicians have a primary duty to warn patients about the risks and complications of prescribed medications. While legal arguments have been made that the drug manufacturer should be responsible for this duty to warn, courts continue to hold physicians accountable.
In a recent lawsuit, a patient claimed a prescribed medication caused lupus-like symptoms and that the manufacturing company, along with three physicians, failed to adequately warn of the drug’s risks and in fact overemphasized its benefits. Two physician defendants settled with the patient, while the third physician was dismissed. The trial resulted in a $4.7 million jury verdict against the manufacturer.
The company appealed, claiming it had no duty to directly warn the patient after providing the patient’s prescribing physician with adequate warning. Based on the legal doctrine of “learned intermediary,” the court ruled in favor of the manufacturer. The doctrine states that a prescribing physician acts as a “learned intermediary” between manufacturer and patient: the manufacturer has a duty to inform the physician about drug uses and hazards, and the physician has a duty to relay to each patient the dangers of using the prescribed medication. As such, the prescribing physician has the responsibility or “duty to warn” a patient of a prescription drug’s side effects.
Review these tips to ensure you fulfill your duty to warn:
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider considering the circumstances of the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.