January 20, 2015

A Risky Situation: FDA Drug Approvals at 18-Year High

by Levin & Perconti

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency responsible for determining whether drugs are safe enough to be used in the United States. On one hand, a speedy approval process is good in that it can provide people who may otherwise die or suffer with life-changing treatments. On the other hand, speedy approval can mean approval for medications that are not actually safe which can cause serious injuries or even deaths. This dichotomy is extremely important to consider in light of the news that FDA drug approvals are at an 18-year high.

FDA Drug Approvals Reach 18-Year High

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January 15, 2015

Wisconsin Lawmaker Trying to Undo the Damage of Tort Reform

by Levin & Perconti

The people of Wisconsin have been some of the nation's most serious victims of tort reform. They have had their rights to recover in medical malpractice cases severely curtailed, particularly in wrongful death cases. Fortunately it appears that at least one Wisconsin lawmaker is finally willing to stand up to the powerful insurance lobby and do something about this travesty of justice.

Wisconsin Lawmaker Takes Steps to Change Medical Malpractice Laws

Radio station WSAU reports that Milwaukee's Senator Nikija Harris Dodd is fighting to let more family members sue for wrongful death in medical malpractice cases. She started the fight last year, but this year she is taking a more measured approach. Wisconsin has a particularly draconian wrongful death statute in place that makes it so only spouses, minor children, and parents of minor children can sue for wrongful death. These leaves some of the most deserving survivors of wrongful deaths out in the cold. It creates a situation where the parent of a college freshman killed by medical malpractice has no recourse whatsoever. The Senator's proposal would fix this problem, allowing parents to sue over the deaths of their children killed by malpractice before the age of 27. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quotes the Senator as saying, “A parent should not have to suffer having lost a child without having their day in court.”

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January 12, 2015

Colorado and West Virginia are in Danger of Suffering from “Tort Reform”

by Levin & Perconti

While courts in states as varies as Illinois, Missouri, and Florida continue to hold tort reform measures designed to rob injured plaintiffs of their rights to recover for their personal injuries unconstitutional, legislators continue to push these measures in states that have not yet enacted them. Colorado is the next state to face the possibility of draconian tort reform measures this legislative term. Caps on medical malpractice damages are just one type of law that the insurance lobby is pushing for this year. West Virginians are also in danger.

Colorado Legislators Push for Tort Reform

Denver's News 9 reports that the Colorado legislature has already introduced 111 bills this session. Tort reform efforts are among those bills and apparently the effort is at least partially bipartisan. The Denver Business Journal reports that the efforts are large scale.

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January 9, 2015

FDA First: Panel Approves Generic Copy of Expensive Biologic Drug

by Levin & Perconti

Most people who either take prescription drugs or care for someone who does are familiar with generic drugs. These medications are supposed to be the same as the name brand medications but they are made by a different manufacturer who did not have to front all of the costs for marketing and research and development, so they are substantially cheaper. Most drugs eventually wind up with a generic equivalent when the name brand drug maker's patent expires. But one class of drugs has, up until now, been isolated from the generic market. That era, however, appears to be at an end.

FDA Panel Approves Generic Version of Biologic Drug

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency responsible for approving generic drugs. CNBC reports that a panel of the agency has unanimously voted to support the approval of Novartis AG's copy of Amgen's cancer drug Neupogen. Neupogen is an injectable biologic that prevents infections in breast cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. Biologics are drugs made from living cells rather than being made from chemicals. A biosimilar is a biopharmaceutical drug designed to have active properties similar to one that has previously been licensed. While the panel's recommendation is not binding on the ultimate agency decision, it is rare for the agency to not follow the panel's recommendations.

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January 5, 2015

Dallas Doctor in Initial Ebola Case Acknowledges Diagnosis Error

by Levin & Perconti

Earlier this year we wrote about how the ill-advised medical malpractice laws in Texas will likely prevent those responsible for failing to diagnose the initial Ebola patient in America responsible. Despite the missed diagnosis, harsh tort reform laws will likely prevent any civil recovery against those responsible. Now the doctor involved in the case has admitted that his diagnosis was erroneous, but the doctor still insists that his care was appropriate under the circumstances.

Hospital Acknowledged that Nurses and Doctors Had Access to Patients Travel Information

Back in October The New York Times reported on Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital's response to its failure to diagnose Thomas E. Duncan with Ebola. Mr. Duncan was a Liberian national visiting who had just traveled to the United States to visit loved ones when he visited the hospital and was sent home. He was later diagnosed with Ebola, which caused his death. The hospital that originally sent him home released a statement blaming an error in its electronic health records system for the missed diagnosis. It initially claimed that the doctors involved did not receive information that Mr. Duncan had traveled from Africa. However, the hospital then back tracked and claimed that there was no electronic records flaw and that “the patient's travel history was documented and available to the full care team in the electronic health record...”

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January 2, 2015

Massachusetts Study Shows Medical Errors Shockingly Common

by Levin & Perconti

Again and again studies have shown that the number of instances of medical malpractice in America is shockingly high. Health care provider errors take lives and injure real people on a regular basis. This is why we need to fight against the insurance lobby's self-interested quest for so-called tort reform—a system of laws designed to strip regular people of their rights to hold those who injure them responsible. Yet another study, this time out of Massachusetts, shows how serious the problem of medical malpractice is.

Nearly One out of Four Massachusetts Resident Either are or Know a Medical Error Victim

The Boston Globe reported on the new Massachusetts study that shows almost 25% of Massachusetts residents say either they or someone close to them “experienced a mistake in their medical care during the past five years.” Half of those people say the medical error resulted in serious health consequences. That means that approximately 1.2 million adults would report an error, and that 600,000 of them would report serious health consequences as a result if every resident of the state were polled. These are the results of a survey of 1,224 Massachusetts residents by the Harvard School of Public Health..

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December 27, 2014

Three Million Dollar Medical Malpractice Settlement Against Advocate Bromenn Medical Center

by Levin & Perconti

In November 2014 the personal injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti won a $3 million settlement in a medical malpractice case. This settlement will help make whole the family of a woman who died from respiratory failure resulting in cardiac arrest.

Woman Suffers from Double Vision and Parethesia

Back on January 15, 2010, a now-deceased woman went to an emergency room and complained that she was suffering from double vision, swollen eyes, weakness, and fatigue. The doctors ordered a CT scan which came back negative, so they sent her home and told her to follow up with her primary care doctor.

The double vision continued into the next day when the woman also began to suffer from parethesia, which is a tingling sensation, in both of her arms. She went to her primary care doctor who admitted her to Bromenn Medical Center. A neurologist who had been treating her for migraines became involved and diagnosed her with an opthalmologic migraine and Guillan-Barre. His plan was to prescribe the woman pain medications, insure her hydration, and monitor her further.

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December 24, 2014

Preventable Medical Errors Not Prevented Nearly Enough

by Levin & Perconti

One of the saddest things about many of the personal injuries and wrongful deaths that result from medical malpractice is that so many of these injuries are entirely preventable. Whether its a hospital's failure to use appropriate safety protocols or a medical worker's failure to comply with those protocols, far too many people suffer entirely preventable injuries.

Study Discusses Evidence-Based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care
The Journal of Patient Safety published a study by Dr. John T. James, PhD that provides information about preventable hospital injuries. In the study, Dr. James reviewed data from medical records of patients treated in New York Hospitals. The original study was based on data from 1984 but it has now been updated with numbers from studies from 2008 to 2011. The studies used what is called the “Global Trigger Tool” to flag certain evidence in medical records that may point to an adverse event that harms a patient. The review of these records allowed the study's author to estimate that the true number of preventable patient deaths caused by hospital error is around 400,000 per year. Experts were also able to estimate that serious harm happens somewhere between ten and twenty times as often as lethal harm.

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December 18, 2014

Medical Malpractice May No Longer Fly on Cruise Ships

by Levin & Perconti

Suffering the consequences of medical malpractice is bad enough when you are near home. Whether you are the victim of a missed diagnosis, a health care provider error, or a misread scan the effects of malpractice can be devastating. Now imagine for a moment that you go through that experience, but instead of going through it near home it happens to you on a cruise ship. You are thousands of miles from home with a very limited number of medical professionals available to you. And on top of that, your ability to recover for the malpractice after the fact is limited. It would be horrific. Fortunately, one court has finally taken a step toward fixing the problems with recovering in court after this sort ‘of injury.

Franza Argues Cruise Line’s Negligence Killed Her Father

The Los Angeles Times reported on the case, noting that the court’s ruling “may eliminate the cruise industry’s broad immunity from medical negligence lawsuits.” The case is called Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises. Patricia Franza sued Royal Caribbean over the treatment her father, Pasquale Vaglio, received from the ship’s medical staff. Mr. Vaglio hit his head while the ship Explorer of the Seas was in port in Bermuda back in 2011. The ship’s nurse saw him after the accident, but provided him with minimal treatment. The onboard doctor did not see him for four hours, and he was not airlifted to a New York hospital until the next day. He died a week later as a result of his injuries. Ms. Franza filed suit, alleging that the cruise line’s negligence caused her father’s death.

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December 15, 2014

Recovering Cancer Patient Killed by Pharmacy Errors

by Levin & Perconti

When we are sick we find ourselves in a position where we are completely dependent on medical professionals. When those healthcare providers make errors the results can be catastrophic. Pharmacy errors are particularly problematic because, when the wrong drug or dose is administered the cure becomes the cause of a new host of problems in an already ill person. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to one cancer patient in Oregon.

Oregon Cancer Patient Given Wrong Drug to Treat Anxiety

Central Oregon’s KTVZ reports that sixty-five year old Loretta Macpherson died as a result of being given the wrong medication. Ms. Macpherson went to the hospital to be treated for anxiety. One month before she went to the hospital she had undergone surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor. She had been making a speedy recovery, and before her trip to the hospital was expected to recover fully. Then tragedy struck.

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