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Deadly Pharmacy Errors Likely Caused by Corporate Greed?

Another patient has lost her life to a tragic pharmacy error. A new report out of Texas shows what may be the cause of some of these totally preventable wrongful deaths: corporate greed.

Pharmacy Accused of Causing Deadly Drug Overdose

Katheryn Barton, a California woman, claims that her mother Ruth Eller died because of a pharmacy error, reports CBS Los Angeles. Ms. Eller was in generally good health, but she experienced an arrhythmia of the heart. Her doctor prescribed a generic version of the drug diltiazem to treat the condition. She had that prescription filled by the Kenneth Road Pharmacy in Glendale, California. That is where the problem occurred.

The instructions on the bottle said to take one tablet four times daily, instructions which Ms. Eller followed. After three days, she was unresponsive to her daughter. So her daughter started to dig into the more detailed instructions provided by the drug’s manufacturer. And those instructions indicated that the drug Ms. Eller was actually provided with was an extended release drug, and that it should only be administered once a day. Ultimately Ms. Barton discovered that the dosage the pharmacist had instructed Ms. Eller to take was ten times the amount of the medication that Ms. Eller’s doctor had prescribed. Ultimately, as a result, Ms. Eller died and the coroner listed the cause of death as diltiazem intoxication due to pharmacy error. Ms. Barton immediately reported the incident to the California Board of Pharmacy, but that agency only fined the pharmacy’s owner $1000 for the error. So Ms. Eller will have to file a civil action against the pharmacy to see any justice done for her mother.

Report Shows Corporate Greed Causes Pharmacy Errors

A report by Houston-area News Station KHOU found that at least one cause of this sort of horrifying pharmacy error is corporate greed. Bill Bradshaw, a Texas pharmacist, told the reporters he has “gone home and said a prayer asking God to please not let me have made any mistakes that could have caused harm to a patient.” He is afraid of making such a mistake because he and other pharmacists are being pressured by the major national corporations they work for to fill prescriptions faster with fewer resources and less qualified support staff. Joe Zorek, a pharmacist who works for CVS, told KHOU, “I kept saying ‘we’re going to hurt a child or a senior citizen.”

KHOU also interviewed Professor Daniel Hussar, who studies the science and business of pharmacies at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia. Professor Hussar explained that for the major pharmacy corporations, prescription drug errors and their consequences have just become part of the cost of doing business.

The focus of these large corporations is profit, and in the status quo it is more profitable for the businesses to cut corners and cause errors than it is for them to slow things down and make sure the errors do not happen. As a result, people like Ms. Eller die and people like Ms. Barton suffer. The only way available to make it less profitable for these companies to allow these errors to occur is to increase the cost of settlements and verdicts obtained in civil cases against the companies when they hurt someone. But in an era of so-called tort-reform, where damages are all too often capped, its impossible to deter the bad behavior of a corporation that only listens when money talks.

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