Articles Posted in Pharmaceuticals

medication injuries

FDA Issues Boxed Warning for Popular Insomnia Drugs 

Insomnia is a common complaint in hospitalized patients and elderly residents of nursing homes. The sleep condition is characterized by an imbalance of a person being able to fall asleep, stay asleep, or a general decline in sleep quality. Insomnia is a common condition that The Better Sleep Council’s studies say nearly 50 percent of patients report having. In the same survey, elderly patients, such as those that live in nursing homes, experience unique sleep disturbances, including:

  • 21 percent reported new-onset insomnia

medical errors

13 Ways to Protect Yourself from Medical Errors 

A newly released study highlighted the striking rise in preventable medical errors of more than 300,000 adult patients was published on July 17, 2019 in the medical journal, The BMJ. The data collected represented 1 in 10 patients harmed in the course of their medical care, half of which were preventable.

The study found:

pain medication overdose

Health System, Intensive Care Doctor, Pharmacist, and Nurse All Sued for Giving Excessive Doses of Powerful Pain Medicine

An Ohio hospital system has been at the center of intense scrutiny after one of its former intensive care doctors is said to have ordered “significantly excessive and potentially fatal” doses of “comfort” pain medicine for at least 27 near-death patients over the course of several years. One family is suing the health system as well as the doctor, pharmacist, and nurse responsible for allegedly giving an improper dose of fentanyl to their 79-year-old family member even though they had asked that lifesaving measures be stopped. Fentanyl, also known as Actiq, Duragesic or Sublimaze, is an especially potent painkiller used to treat extreme pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strains of fentanyl can be up to 50 times more powerful than morphine.

Although the hospital, part of the larger Mount Carmel Health System, has since acknowledged the doses in many similar patient cases were larger than needed. A legal team will now investigate as to whether the acts were intentional, and if the lethal drugs were possibly used improperly to accelerate the patients’ deaths.

The Center for Justice and Democracy (CJ&D), a consumer rights group out of New York Law School, has shared their list of 22 famous figures who have been harmed and even killed by medical malpractice.

Most of us are familiar with the high profile drug-related tragedies of Michael Jackson (2009) and Prince (2016) and even Judy Garland (1969) and Marilyn Monroe (1962). Some of us are familiar with the details surrounding the death of comedian Joan Rivers in 2014 during an endoscopy at a New York City clinic.  But it was surprising even to us to read the details of medical neglect in cases involving other beloved celebrities. As CJ&D pointed out in their report, no one is exempt from medical negligence or malpractice, not even celebrities with all the money and resources in the world at their fingertips. The report also shared several findings that now have become well known to the public. Among them, that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.

Each of the 22 cases highlighted in the report has resulted in a settlement or verdict (or is pending) and in many of them, grieving loved ones or the victims themselves have said that it’s not about money, but instead about enforcing a sense of right vs. wrong in the face of injustice.

“We can no longer continue to treat Caucasians as the default or universal patient model.” 

     -Dr, Danielle N. Lee to Ebony Magazine, July 2014 

Higher Risk, Different Presentations, but Still Hardly Studied

In April, we covered ProPublica’s investigation into UIC’s renowned child psychiatrist, Dr. Mani Pavuluri.

From 2009-2013, Dr. Pavuluri conducted a study on the effects of lithium in children with bipolar disorder. The study was abruptly cancelled when one of the subjects reported an illness serious enough to notify federal officials. Initially UIC would not disclose the total number of study participants.

Test subjects were given 8 weeks of lithium following a manic episode and then exposed to brain scans to monitor changes. UIC failed to properly oversee the study, only finding out later that their star pediatric psychiatrist had violated FDA standards, general research standards, and university rules to carry out her study.

Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin and lesser known MS Contin, is facing scrutiny after several recent articles exposed information from a Justice Department investigation into the company. The investigation focused on evidence that showed Purdue’s legal council and executives were aware of the addictive nature of their drugs, including their popularity with drug seekers. Despite knowing their drugs were being misused, the company continued a false marketing campaign that promoted the drug as safer than other opioids because it was less likely to be abused or cause addiction. The company still maintains that they weren’t aware of users abusing their drugs until Maine’s attorney general issued an alert about the drug in 2000, despite federal investigators finding proof that company salespeople were aware as early as 1997, just a year after the release of OxyContin.

The federal investigation ended in 2007 with Purdue Pharma pleading guilty to a felony charge of deceptive advertising and 3 top executives pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. The company paid $635 million in fines to the government, while the execs did community service and avoided jail time. According to many familiar with the case, Purdue’s executives were given a proverbial hall pass, missing a potentially huge opportunity to throw a roadblock in the now public health crisis that is America’s opioid crisis. Many have called drug company executives behind opioids at the center of the crisis “suited drug pushers,” no better than street drug dealers. Others have said that if they were a minority in street clothes selling these drugs, they’d be locked up. Instead, drug company executives who knowingly market these drugs and force their sales reps to push them on doctors with false claims of safety and less addictive formulations are skating by, continuing to receive large bonuses and stock options while fueling the ongoing drug crisis.

Internal Emails Reveal Awareness of OxyContin’s Street Reputation

An April 10th report by a Goldman Sachs analyst has been making the rounds in the media. The report, entitled “The Genome Revolution,” advised pharmaceutical companies to consider making and selling drugs that treat, not cure, diseases. Why? Making drugs so effective that they eradicate a condition or disease isn’t a profitable business model in the long run.

Drug Companies Hold Our Future in Their Hands

The opioid crisis has put a national spotlight on drug companies for their role in creating and distributing drugs that have caused many in this country to spiral into devastating addiction. These companies have the knowledge and financial means to create drugs that can destroy lives. They also have the ability to save lives and help many struggling with diseases and conditions live pain-free, symptom-free, or at least better than they would without pharmaceutical intervention. Cancer patients are living longer and people with debilitating or problematic conditions and diseases are able to manage and treat symptoms, thanks to big pharma. Drug companies are not all bad. Except that we must remember that they are, at their core, a business. And businesses exist to make money.

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

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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