NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Liability Suits Affect Medical Care

July 17, 2003

Lawsuits involving prescription drugs may be affecting the way doctors prescribe, pharmacists dispense and patients use medicine, according to the U.S. Chamber Legal Reform Institute. A survey of doctors, pharmacists and patients sponsored by the institute found that drug lawsuits influence some people to stop taking their prescription medication and deter some doctors from prescribing particular medications.

For instance, one in four patients surveyed said they would immediately stop taking a prescribed drug if they saw an advertisement for a lawsuit over the medication, according to the Harris Interactive "Pharmaceutical Liability Study."

  • Nearly half of the pharmacists surveyed said that there had been instances in which their patients either stopped taking a properly prescribed medication (44 percent) or refused to take a medication (40 percent), because the patient discovered the drug might be the focus of a liability lawsuit.
  • For doctors, 38 percent reported patients stopped taking and 29 percent said patients refused to take a prescribed drug because the patients found out that the medication was part of a lawsuit.
  • More than 40 percent of the doctors surveyed said they had avoided prescribing an appropriate medication because the drug might be involved in a product liability lawsuit, even though they considered the suit to be groundless.

Although these changes in behavior are not pervasive, they occur regularly, according to the survey data. For example, of the 43 percent of doctors who ever avoided prescribing an appropriate medication due to liability concerns, more than a quarter reported doing so frequently or very frequently -- in other words, 12 percent of all doctors surveyed frequently avoided prescribing an appropriate drug due to litigation concerns.

Source: Harris Interactive Inc., "Pharmaceutical Liability Study Report on Findings," July 15, 2003, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.


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