Pharmacies Silent on Malpractice Settlements

When a pharmacy gets hit with a malpractice claim, it often settles quickly—and demands silence in return. If only physicians were so lucky? According to plaintiff attorneys, the majority of...

When a pharmacy gets hit with a malpractice claim, it often settles quickly—and demands silence in return. If only physicians were so lucky? According to plaintiff attorneys, the majority of pharmacy malpractice settlements contain a confidentiality agreement, which bars a plaintiff from talking about the terms of the settlement.

American pharmacies, especially large drug chains, demand the gag clause not only to sidestep negative publicity but also to avoid disclosure to plaintiff lawyers of potentially damaging information, like statistics on the number of prescriptions pharmacists fill in a day. According to a recent USA Today report, the typical confidentiality clause also contains language that the settlement covers “disputed” claims and denies any wrongdoing on the part of the pharmacy.

The result of the secrecy, say some consumer advocates, is that it’s practically impossible to get a handle on the number of prescription errors or any pattern that such errors follow. Legislatives solutions aren’t likely, since lawmakers fear that mandating disclosure would flood the courts as more cases went to trial. Currently, North Carolina is the only state that makes prescription errors public and then only in cases of death or serious injury.

“It is unfair to believe everything we hear about lawyers, some of it might not be true.”—Gerald Lieberman