Articles Posted in Pharmaceuticals

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In collaboration with the New York Times, ProPublica authored a multi-part series on the falling cost of generic drugs and insurance. One article sought to answer what politicians and many consumers have been asking lately: If generics are cheaper, why are some insurance plans requiring consumers to use the more expensive brand name versions? ProPublica spoke to a California pediatrician who said he began receiving memos from pharmacies telling him that he had to prescribe name brand versions of attention deficit drugs such as Adderall XR.

ProPublica has revealed that deals with insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (companies such as CVS Caremark who manage drugs plans for insurance companies) are receiving kickbacks and deals, while leaving consumers footing the bill for higher out of pocket costs.

Adderall XR and Insurance Companies: Back Room Negotiations

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In a collaborative report with Chicago physician Dr. Steven Fox and two pharmacy professors who specialize in drug interactions, the Chicago Tribune has pulled back the curtain on a frighteningly common occurrence. Pharmacists at both major chains and independent pharmacies are dispensing medications with well-known interactions with no warning to the patient. The study, conducted over 9 months at 255 Chicagoland, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin pharmacies, found that 52% of the time, pharmacists entirely missed the opportunity to notify the patient of interactions or to call Dr. Fox to confirm that the two conflicting drugs prescribed were intentional, which is considered a best practice.

Prescription drug interactions cause thousands of hospitalizations a year. The FDA, citing data obtained from a JAMA study, estimates that 2 million people a year experience a serious drug interaction (from both prescription and over the counter meds) and that 100,000 a year die from these combinations. The pharmacy failure rate demonstrated in our region alone should be enough of a cause for concern to major pharmacies and small pharmacies alike. If some of the 5 combinations chosen by the pharmacists that led the study were actually taken by patients, the end results could’ve been kidney failure, stroke, birth defects, multi organ failure, extremely low blood pressure, gangrene and even death. According to one of the pharmacists leading the study, the possible interactions of the drug combinations they had Dr. Fox write were ‘no-brainers’ for pharmacists.

CVS Has Highest Failure Rate of Any Chain Pharmacy

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Pharmacists and pharmacy professionals are expected to provide us with medical guidance based on their expertise and training. In one recent case, a serious mistake was made and it caused a man to experience an allergic reaction. The man has filed a lawsuit in cook County seeking damages of more than $50,000. The lawsuit names the pharmacist as well as Elsdon Medical Pharmacy, where he worked. According to the lawsuit, the man suffered serious and permanent injuries as a result of the negligence.

Medication Mistakes

Medication mistakes are very common. In fact, medication errors are among the most common type of medical malpractice that occurs in the United States. Medical mistakes, including errors in medication, account for thousands of injuries and deaths every year. In this case, the man alleges that the pharmacy dispensed medication that contained sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim, an antibiotic, however, he was allergic to it. The pharmacist was negligent by providing the wrong medication thus causing his severe medical reaction.
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Pharmacy errors are a serious problem in the United States. This form of serious medical malpractice happens regularly, and in the most severe cases it can result in serious injury or even death. The thing about these errors is that they are almost always caused by simple human error. Pharmacists and techs who are working too quickly and too carelessly wind up filling a prescription incorrectly and the patient pays the price. One hospital may have found a solution to the problem, however.

Robots Fundamentally Change a California Hospital Pharmacy
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As readers know, a mass fungal meningitis outbreak has been sweeping across half of the country. Facilities in twenty three states received contaminated vials of a spinal steroid injection, with hundreds already having been infected, 24 killed, and thousands more waiting for confirmation that they have or have not developed meningitis as a result of their injection. It is a terribly tragic situation, and it is critical that all of us pay attention to the individual stories at the heart of the ordeal.

For example, MyDesert.com reported on one story involving a family that has been decimated as a result of this incident. According to the report, a husband a wife both recieved the contaminated injections–usually given for back pain. They did not have the shot at the same time, however. The wife had hers in August and the husband about a month later in mid-September. They obviously had no idea at the time, but those shots would change their lives and that of their family forever.

Only a few days after the husband had his shot, the wife began to feel sick and showing signs of the meningitis. Only September 22nd she suffered one the most serious consequences associated with the condition–a stroke in her brainstem. The stroke proved damaging, and the woman passed away about a week later. Experts explain that the vast majority of the deaths connected to the outbreak thus far occur in that matter, from stroke complications.

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Sad news continues to emerge regarding the fungal meningitis infection traced to contaminated spinal injections. According to a recent NBC News report, the total count of infected patients and fatalities continue to rise. As of Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 247 patients have been identified as having fungal meningitis. In addition, the death count has risen to nineteen. The story notes that the sickest patients have taken the meningitis harder than others. Most deaths have been caused by strokes connected to the meningitis. This is a common trend with various acts of medical malpractice or pharmaceutical negligence–the patients with the most intial vulnerabilities face the most serious consequences from the problems.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administation (FDA) has identified the source of the problem, the NECC–a “compounding” pharmacy in New England. The FDA conducted a sweep of the NECC facility and voiced serious concern about the state of the drugs there. Following the raid there were serious concerns about the sterility of many of the products created and send out by the business.

Congressional Action

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Unfortunately, more news is coming out regarding the meningitis outbreak that has plagued dozens of state, including Illinois, and that news is discouraging. According to recent report over the weekend from NBC News, the total infected count has risen to 197. In addition, yet another patient who developed the fungal meningitis has died, raising the death count to 15. Also, for the first time there has been a reported meningitis case in Illinois. This is yet another reminder of the need for all local residents and their families to be incredibly vigilant about this situation to ensure full and proper treatment is received if necessary.

Slow Growth

According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the problem has been traced to at lease three batches of spinal steroids at a compounding plant in New England. The vials were delivered to at least 23 states (including Illinois), though cases of meningitis have thus far only been reported in 13 of those states. The contaminated steroid were apparently used between mid-summer and September of this year.

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Unfortunately, those of us working on cases related to mass medical device errors or dangerous drugs appreciate that safety changes are usually only made in the aftermath of tragic problems. This is partly understandable, as in some cases it is difficult for anyone to know of a problem until some harm befalls someone. However, that does not mean that all mass problems are unavoidable or should not result accountability for those responsible.

The latest fungal meningitis outbreak–linked to tainted spinal steroid injections–offers a good illustration of these points.

As blog readers know, the outbreak has been traced to a pharmaceutical compounding company located in New England. Over 17,000 vials of contaminated product were shipped to at least 23 different states. Over 13,000 doses may have been given to patients between July and September of this year before the problem was identified and the injections were recalled. Thus far well over a hundred people have been infected, and at least twelve have died as a result.

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CBS TV 11 News wrote about a new example of medical malpractice yesterday involving the death of a beloved husband and father. Wendell Knox was a long time university professor when he died at a local hospital where he was being treated for a broken hip and pneumonia.

Besides the condition which brought him to the hospital, Wendell had long suffered from heart problems. As part of his plan to treat his heart problems he was prescribed the medicine Milrinone. The medicine was clearly an important part of his health. His wife Tracy explained, “On the medicine, my husband was doing so much better. It was amazing.”

While in the hospital following the hip injury, Wendell’s wife noticed that he was not receiving a Milrinone drip along with his other medications. When she asked about it the doctor told her that her husband no longer needed it. Shortly after that, Wendell died of cardiac arrest before ever leaving the hospital.

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MSNBC is reporting a case of medication error. This story involves a 62-year-old woman who was supposed to receive one kind of pain medication but instead was given an epilepsy drug. This drug was also administered to her in a dose that was far higher than any doctor would ever recommend. Within days of taking this pill, the woman committed suicide. While this may seem to be a strange reaction to a epilepsy drug, suicidal actions are a known risk of Lacital. An autopsy confirmed that the drug was in her system. This woman’s death is one of more than 5 million wrong-drug errors that occur each year. Oftentimes this occurs because the drugs have similar sounding names. The Institute of Medicine believes that 7,000 people die each year in the U.S. from medication errors.

A report by U.S. Pharmacopeia found that 1,500 drugs have names that are so similar that they are oftentimes confused with one or more medications. Due to these alarming facts, the FDA has launched a “Safe Use Initiative” which is aimed to curb the number of medication errors. The international drugmaker Takeda agreed to change the name of a heartburn drug Kapidex after there were reports that it was being confused with a prostate cancer drug. This is a positive reaction to these reports and other companies will follow suit. To learn more about this medical malpractice study, please check out this link.

About 325,00 medicine errors are serious enough to cause harm to patients. These include long-lasting injury or death. Many of these pharmaceutical errors include bad handwriting, workplace distractions, inexperienced staff and worker shortages. Pharmacy technicians are often involved in these look-alike errors, with almost 38 percent of these workers implicated in initial reports. If you have been a victim of medical error that caused serious injury, please consult a Chicago medical malpractice attorney.