Articles Posted in Medication Dosing Error

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A recent study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings reveals that 54% of American physicians report feeling burnt out at work. Lead study author, Stanford pediatric physician Daniel S. Tawfik, and his team found that those experiencing burnout were TWO times as likely to have made a major medical error in the last 3 months. Study authors also believe that based on this information, 1/3 of all American physicians are experiencing burnout at any given time.  Researchers describe burnout as “emotional exhaustion or cynicism.”

The study questioned 6,586 physicians in active practice at an American hospital or clinic and asked them to report feelings of burnout, excessive fatigue, recent suicidal thoughts, their thoughts on patient safety on the unit in which they primarily work, as well as those who had made a major medical error. The authors found:

  • 54.3%  of physicians admitted feeling burnt out
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The Center for Justice & Democracy, a consumer rights advocacy group out of New York Law School, has compiled a review of medical malpractice incidents and has publicly shared their findings. Entitled “Medical Malpractice: By the Numbers,” the briefing examines recent medical studies and investigations of both inpatient and outpatient groups and facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice organizations.

The data brings deficiencies in medical care into the spotlight, specifically the care Americans receive within hospitals. Below is a summary of information from the report our medical malpractice attorneys think is particularly informative and worth sharing. All data sources can be found in the CJ&D briefing. We have included the page number of the report that contains the source for each statistic.

HOSPITALS:

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When we enter the hospital for treatment we trust that the doctors and other medical professionals will provide us with the best care possible. Unfortunately that is not always the case. A medication mistake proved deadly for one woman. A lawsuit was filed against the doctors and Gottlieb Memorial Hospital alleging that they administered a lethal dose of Fentanyl which caused the woman’s death the next day. The lawsuit was filed by the woman’s estate administrator and seeks damages of more than $50,000.

Medication Mistakes

Medical mistakes, including medication errors, are the third highest cause of death in the United States. This is a chilling fact that is very sobering. Medication mistakes impact hundreds of thousands of people every year and are responsible for about 1,000 deaths every day. The problem seems to be getting worse before it gets better. Medication mistakes include various things such as:
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A lawsuit was filed in Cook County alleging a pharmacist gave a customer incorrect information that caused a severe drug incompatibility. The woman visited a Walgreen pharmacy in Markham looking for sinus medication. According to the lawsuit, she asked the pharmacist which medication could be taken safely along with the anti-epilepsy medication Kepra that she was already prescribed. The pharmacist told her that she could safely take Sudafed with it. However, after taking the over-the-counter medication, the woman lapsed into a coma. She now suffers from memory loss due to the incompatibility of the drugs.

Medication Errors
According to the FDA, medical errors injure more than a million people per year in the U.S. and account for at least one death per day. This includes a variety of medical mistakes, including pharmaceutical errors. Incorrect dosage, incorrect prescriptions, and drug interactions generally account for the most common medication mistakes. Sometimes the doctor prescribes medication without checking to see if there is a potential for negative interaction with other medications the patient is taking. In this instance, the woman specifically asked the pharmacist for a medication that would be safe to take with her prescription. The lawsuit alleges that the pharmacist and drugstore were negligent and were responsible for providing proper medical advice.
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Pharmacy errors are a serious problem in the United States. While some of these errors are caught before serious damage is done, others result in serious personal injury or wrongful death. The most tragic of these cases are those that involve children, whose small bodies are even less likely to be able to cope with receiving an overdose or improper medication. Unfortunately problems in our pharmacy system lead to these errors happening all too often.

Young Boy Nearly Killed by Pharmacy Error
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We rely on doctors, including psychiatrists, to keep us healthy. When one prescribes us a medication we trust them and take it. This is particularly true of vulnerable people like nursing home residents and other individuals who have to rely on health care providers for their day-to-day needs. Sometimes health care providers make errors, so we have a medical malpractice system to help right those wrongs. But in some much rarer cases doctors are much more malicious than that, and they actually intentionally act against their patients’ interests for their own financial benefit. These cases can result in doctors losing their licenses or even facing criminal charges.

Suspended Illinois Psychiatrist Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges

Way back in 2009 the Chicago Tribune and Pro Publica reported that Dr. Michael Reinstein was over prescribing the psychiatric drug clozapine and that it appeared that he was receiving kickbacks for doing so. Previously, in the early 1990s, Reinstein was actually suspended from the Medicaid program after being accused of failing to keep proper records. His Medicaid bills from 1991 showed that he had cared for 70 patients a day on 44 different days and that on 12 days he had seen over 100 patients. If a doctor were to see 100 patients even in a 16 hour shift he or she would have a little less than ten minutes with each patient and that presumes that the doctor would take no breaks to eat, get a glass of water, or use the restroom.
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When you or a loved one is facing what appears to be a terminal illness treatment decisions can be difficult. Not only do you often have to learn a lot to truly give informed consent to the available treatments, but in the case of experimental treatments even more issues arise. The experimental nature of these treatments means that there is no guarantee that they will work and no guarantee that they will not make your situation even worse than it already is, but on the other hand such a treatment may present the only chance there is of recovery.

Some patients are pushed into these treatments and medications without truly understanding the consequences while others who know what they are getting into are denied access to potentially life saving or lengthening treatment. The red tape patients and their doctors have to go through to get access to these treatments can be prohibitive. This conflict is real and difficult to resolve. In light of it, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now announced that it will make access to these treatments easier for patients.

FDA Announces New Policy
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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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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that it has approved a new prescription drug to treat chronic hepatitis C(genotype 1). The drug is called Harvoni and it is made by Gilead Sciences. It is the first combination pill approved to treat the disease, and is also the first approved treatment for the disease that does not also require the administration of interferon or ribavirin. The drug works by interfering with certain enzymes that the hepatitis C virus requires in order to multiply. The hope is that using this sort of one-pill treatment for the disease will simplify treatment. It is a laudable goal, as simpler treatment regimens could ultimately results in less medical malpractice and better outcomes for patients, assuming that the simpler treatment regimen is safe.

Additional Purported Benefits of the Drug

In addition to being a one-pill solution, Harvoni could also decrease the overall duration of treatment for Hepatitis C, reports The New York Times. For a large number of patients it would also make it possible for them to be treated exclusively with an oral medication for the first time. Finally, it is cheaper than an already existing treatment called Sovaldi, also made by Gilead Sciences. However, that does not mean by an stretch of the imagination that Harvoni will be cheap.
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The Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois officials have suspended a controversial psychiatrist’s license to practice. The doctor, Dr. Michael Reinstein, prescribed a dangerous antipsychotic drug called clozapine to patients in nursing homes and mental health facilities. Dr. Reinstein prescribed to drug to over half of the patients he was treating. The drug is linked to the potentially wrongful deaths of three of Dr. Reinstein’s patients, resulting in the doctor being accused of fraud. As it turns out, the accusations are substantiated.

The Illinois medical board suspended Dr. Reinstein’s license because it found that he received $350,000 in illegal payments from the maker of clozapine while he disregarded both the drug’s life-threatening effects and the fact that there were other safer treatment options for his patients. Clozapine increases the risk of death in elderly patients and can result in inflammation of the heart wall and seizures. It also has substantial side effects that are not fatal but that seriously impact quality of life, including but not limited to extreme constipation, bedwetting, night-time drooling, muscle stiffness, sedation, tremors, and weight gain. Prescribing such dangerous drugs unnecessarily is a serious type of medication error malpractice.
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