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The manufacturer of a prescription drug has, at minimum, a legal duty to warn the medical profession of any risks inherent in its use that the manufacturer knows or should know exist. However, a doctor or nurse could potentially be held responsible if he or she negligently prescribes medication or if the doctor ignored the manufacturer’s instructions, or prescribed an incorrect medication or dosage, which resulted in injury to the patient. The prescribing physician is considered a learned intermediary. The learned intermediary doctrine is nearly universal and states that, where drugs or medical devices are only available to the public by prescription from a physician or dentist, the products manufacturer fulfills its duty to warn by advising the professional of the dangers of the product and has no duty to warn the patient.

Because of the physician’s superior medical knowledge, and the fact that he or she has been given adequate information from the manufacturer, he or she is in the best position to determine whether a particular drug or device is appropriate for a patient. Therefore, the physician has the primary duty of advising the patient of the risks and side effects of a medication.


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