Wrong prescription

A 62-year-old man with a three-year history of sero-positive rheumatoid arthritis received regular treatment with daily penicillamine. He had monthly check-ups from his GPs, including blood and urine tests. Repeat prescriptions for the penicillamine were provided by the GPs at a branch surgery, often as the result of a telephone request.

On one occasion communication broke down and the practice dispensed penicillin by mistake. The patient assumed that the active ingredient of his pills was the same though their outward appearance had changed slightly. He took the penicillin for three weeks, during which time his rheumatoid arthritis deteriorated. The mistake was eventually discovered when he needed a lot of time off work, two weeks in hospital and aspiration of a knee joint.


The MDU's expert felt that the relapse had not been caused just because penicillamine had been stopped. He suggested that a natural flare-up of the rheumatoid process was a more likely explanation. This argument was persuasive to the patient's advisers when the negotiation stage was reached and the claim was settled for £1,000 plus legal costs. The original error had been made by the practice's dispenser and the damages were split equally between the defence organisations of the two partners who employed her.

This page was correct at publication on 09/12/2002. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.