Articles Posted in Pharmaceuticals

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.

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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, 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that half of all automated Spanish versions of prescriptions have errors. They base this on a study that found that pharmacies that print prescription labels that translate into Spanish oftentimes have inaccurate or confusing instructions. These prescription errors can be potentially hazardous to a patient’s health. These researchers looked at over 70 medicine labels to come to the conclusion that the margin of error on translated prescriptions is 50 percent.

One example is that an anemic patient was placed on iron supplements. It was discovered after the patient had no improved iron levels that he had only been taking one drop of the supplement instead of the amount the doctor had prescribed. The patient was not taking the right amount because he was confused by the prescription instructions. One common problem in translated prescriptions is that once in Spanish means eleven. It can cause great problems when a prescription says take once a day, and a patient takes 11. Another problem is that English prescription instructions are not standardized. Since the same instructions can be written in multiple ways, it is difficult to translate every word to match the doctor’s wishes. These medical errors take place in Chicago pharmacies and hospitals throughout the city’s Spanish speaking neighborhoods.

These problems highlight why doctors and pharmacists need to go over all instructions with their patient’s to explain to them what doses and drugs need to be ingested. To read more about the medical error study, please click the link.

The Florida Appeals Court upheld an almost 26 million dollar verdict against a Walgreens Pharmacy after a teenage pharmacy technician improperly filled a prescription and killed a mother of three. The pharmacy technician typed in “ten milligrams” on the mother’s prescription when she should have typed one milligram. This case draws attention to the very troubling fact that there is no national standard for the training of pharmacy technicians. ABC news points out that in many states pharmacy technicians are not even required to have high school diplomas. Shockingly “a lot of the people working in the pharmacy have about the same level of training as someone that would be working in fast food,” commented a lawyer who handles cases involving prescription errors. In addition, pharmacy technicians are overworked and are not closely supervised by licensed pharmacists.

Recently, Susan Novosad, a medical malpractice attorney at Levin and Perconti, settled a case against a Chicago-area pharmacy. This medical malpractice and negligence case was brought by the son of an 86-year-old man who died as a result of poor direction and instructions with regard to writing, filling and refilling his medication prescription. The mistakes made by the pharmacy were inexcusable and caused Susan’s client to lose his father. Susan hopes to warn others against the dangers of dosing errors in medication administration. If pharmacies do not change their ways, they will continue to kill victims because of negligence.

An autistic young man, who was unable to speak, entered a Children’s hospital for some routine dental work. The hospital made the reckless medical error of using a painkiller-laced patch though his procedure. This type of patch is usually only meant to ameliorate chronic pain in cancer patients and others. The victim was discharged and found dead in his bed the following morning. The medical examiner stated that he had died from a drug overdose caused by the fentanyl patch. This family alleges he should have never even been given the fentanyl patch, nevertheless the highest dose available. The hospital has already admitted they committed medical error in prescribing the drug to the young man. The drug now requires a pain-management specialist’s sign off before it is administered. According to the Federal Drug Administration, wrong prescription of the fentanyl patch has become a persistent problem across the country during recent years, leading to numerous reports of death and life-threatening injuries. The report shows that doctors have inappropriately prescribed the fentanyl patch to patients for acute pain following surgery, for headaches, occasional or mild pain, when it should not be prescribed. The family feels a great deal of remorse considering the egregioius and preventable mistake that caused their son’s death. If you or a loved one has been wrongly prescribed fentanyl, please consult an Illinois lawyer. To read more about the wrongful death, please click the link.

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