Medication-related claims Insights to reduce risk

Summary: What are the main issues driving medication-related claims? Find out the underlying themes and insights to reduce your risk of these types of claims, in our analysis

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Key messages

  • Medication is commonly the main issue in a claim, particularly the prescription of restricted or controlled substances.
  • It is important to keep up-to-date with the latest prescribing guidelines and relevant legislative requirements, particularly for restricted or controlled substances.
  • Ideally, record your clinical decision-making and rationale for prescribing a medication, as well as the explanations you provide a patient about the need for the medication, risks and benefits and plan for follow-up.

1 in 7 claims were primarily about medication

Prescribing was the main issue in these claims

  • Prescribing was the most common issue (e.g. inappropriate prescribing, inappropriately refusing/reducing/ceasing medication).
  • Less common issues included administration of medication (e.g. poor technique, administering the wrong medication) and management and follow-up (e.g. inadequately monitoring a patient or ignoring their medication concerns).  
Medication related graph

Issues with prescribing mostly related to restricted or controlled substances

  • Claims about prescribing restricted or controlled substances commonly involved benzodiazepines and opioids.
  • A wide range of medications were referred to in other prescribing-related claims, including antibiotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics and steroids.
Prescribing related graph

Care was often assessed as below standard for prescribing restricted or controlled substances

  • Following a claim, a medico-legal evaluation is undertaken to assess whether expected standards of care were met. 
  • Claims primarily about an issue with prescribing restricted or controlled substances received a less favourable assessment than those about other medications.

About this analysis

  • This report is based on our analysis of the underlying themes in 9,274 complaints to regulators and compensation claims for Avant member doctors from all specialties, finalised between July 2017 and June 2020.
  • There were 1,350 claims primarily about medication. These were classified as those claims for which an issue with medication was identified as the main factor. 
  • Medications were classified as restricted or controlled substances according to the listings in Schedule 4D or Schedule 8 of the Australian Government Department of Health's Poisons Standard. 

More resources

For articles, factsheets, case studies and other resources on a range of topics, including medication and prescribing, visit the Avant Learning Centre

For any queries please contact us at

For more information or immediate advice, call our Medico-legal Advisory Service on 1800 128 268, 24/7 in emergencies.

Download claims insights

Medication-related claims - Insights to reduce risk (PDF)


IMPORTANT: Avant routinely codes information collected in the course of assisting member doctors in medico-legal matters into a standardised, deidentified dataset. This retrospective analysis was conducted using this dataset. The findings represent the experience of these doctors in the period of time specified, which may not reflect the experience of all doctors in Australia. This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practise proper clinical decision-making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published (January 2021).

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