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Woman receives six-figure settlement after prolonged antibiotic prescription caused irreversible lung damage

A woman has settled a medical negligence claim against her GP after being prescribed Nitrofurantoin, an antibiotic for treatment of bacterial infections, for eight times longer than recommended, resulting in Nitrofurantoin induced lung damage.  

Posted on 21 July 2023

The woman, who we have called Sarah, had a history of urinary tract infections and was referred to the Urology team at her local hospital in 2015 where she underwent further investigations.

She was subsequently prescribed Nitrofurantoin but, despite clear advice from the Urology team that the antibiotic treatment was to continue for a period of six months only, Sarah’s GP prescribed her Nitrofurantoin on a regular basis for a number of years.

In September 2018, Sarah experienced symptoms including a painful chesty cough, difficulty breathing, body aches and back pain. Her GP ordered a chest x-ray and referred Sarah to a chest clinic for further investigations.  

Despite worsening respiratory symptoms, her GP continued to prescribe Nitrofurantoin to Sarah until she was eventually seen in the chest clinic in March 2019, where she was diagnosed with Nitrofurantoin induced lung damage, and told that she should never be prescribed the medication again.

While Sarah’s condition improved when she stopped taking Nitrofurantoin, and with the aid of steroid treatment, she has been left with lifelong reduced lung function. As a result, Sarah continues to suffer from breathlessness during light exercise, chest pain, fatigue, anxiety, and has been unable to return to her physically demanding role as a carer.

Sarah approached medical negligence solicitors Suzanne White and Matthew Westlake to bring a claim against her GP. It was argued that her permanent lung damage was caused by the GP’s prolonged prescription of Nitrofurantoin.  

While the GP continued to deny liability, settlement discussions resulted in a six figure damages sum being agreed between the parties.

Sarah said:

“When you visit your GP, you put your trust in them believing that they will act in your best interest. This wasn’t my experience. Instead, what started out as seeking treatment for persistent urinary tract infections has ended up in lifechanging debilitating damage.

“I am grateful for the support Leigh Day provided during a difficult time. The care and attention my case was given got me the best outcome I could have hoped for.”

Medical negligence solicitor at Leigh Day, Matthew Westlake said:

“Sarah suffered avoidable harm as a result of the prolonged prescription of Nitrofurantoin. There was no attempt by her GP to warn her of such risks, nor any attempt to keep her under regular review to check for the signs and symptoms associated with the medication, as there ought to have been. I am pleased that we were able to secure a good financial settlement for the Claimant in the end, though it is a shame that the matter was litigated for many years before this could be achieved.”

Suzanne White
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Inquests

Suzanne White

Suzanne White is head of the medical negligence team and has specialised in this area of law since qualifying in 1999.

Matthew Westlake
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Surgical negligence

Matthew Westlake

Matthew Westlake is a senior associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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