Articles Posted in Prescription Error

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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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One shockingly common form of medical malpractice is pharmacy error. These errors include mistakes in filling medication prescriptions, incorrect labeling of medications, and failures to properly advise patients on how to properly use their medications. Somewhere between 30 million and 50 million prescriptions are filled incorrectly each year. Approximately 15,000 people are killed each year by prescription medication. The results of pharmacy errors can be relatively minor or absolutely devastating, depending on the details of the mistake. Recently stories have been published regarding cases of pharmacy error on both coasts.

New York Pharmacy Error Causes Teenage Girl to Lose her Hair and Have Breathing Problems

NBC New York reported recently on the story of Allyson McGuire’s thirteen-year-old daughter Cheryl. Cheryl suffered from a swollen muscle. She went to a doctor who gave her a prescription, and then to the pharmacy at a local Wal-Mart. The pharmacist told Allyson that she should give her daughter four of the pills twice a day. So, she did. Soon Cheryl’s hair began to fall out in large clumps. Then she started to have problems breathing and she had to go to the hospital. The dose the pharmacist had told Allyson to give Cheryl was substantially higher than the proper dosage. Wal-Mart admitted that the pharmacist made a mistake and says it will provide more training. Fortunately it appears Cheryl will not be permanently harmed, but in that she is fortunate.
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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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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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Medical malpractice takes on many forms in hospitals and clinics across the country. On this blog we have documented many types of hospital errors, from diagnostic mistakes and lack of informed consent to surgical errors and misread x-rays. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti have decades of experience with all of these matters. Our lawyers have fought for victims of all types of medical mistakes and their families.

Of all the forms of medical malpractice, one of the most common across the country (and most deadly) is medication errors. Almost everyone understands that the various drugs given to a patient can have (and are intended to have) drastic consequences on the patient’s body, both good and bad. The power of many of these medications makes it absolutely vital that all staff members who handle the pharmaceutical products use their most extreme care, double and triple checking the details so that no problems arise.

Unfortunately, mistakes still do occur with shocking frequency-and the results are deadly.

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According to a recent report by ABC News, researchers at the University of California at San Diego have found that the rate of medication errors increase in July at teaching hospitals throughout the country. This spike coincides with the arrival of new medical residents who are just beginning their clinical training. The “July Effect” has always been talked about, but the new study links a 10 % increase in medication errors with these changes in personnel.

An experienced physician cited in the article was not surprised by the study’s findings. He attributes these often-fatal medical malpractice mistakes to the fact that residents are inexperienced in caring for patients and are in the process of trying to learn a new system and new set of procedures. Many medical residents are adjusting to longer shifts and face sleep-deprivation. A Boston Globe article from October 2009 linked less sleep to more complications and noted that the rate of complications when a doctor had less than six hours of sleep was 2.8% higher than when a doctor had more than 6 hours of sleep before a procedure. A Mayo Clinic study in the September 23, 2009 Journal of the American Medical Association mirrored these results, noting that residents who were sleep-deprived were more likely to perform a medical error.

In order to avoid the “July Effect” hospitals and residency program directors must raise awareness surrounding the issues of medical and medication errors and work with residents to prevent them from happening. Program directors should stress the importance of having new residents ask senior residents or attendings for help if there is an issue they are unsure of. Programs should also work with new residents to help them manage their sleep and new workload. The ABC article also notes the implementation of new software that checks for prescription errors may help to quell the July Effect in teaching hospitals.

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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.

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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.

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The family of a man has sued the drug store Rite Aide, alleging that a medical error at the pharmacy led to the victim’s premature and wrongful death. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that Rite Aid pharmacists were negligent when they issued a lethal dose of chemotherapy drug to the man, who developed malignant melanoma that had spread to his brain in 2007. The prescription instructed the man to take 14 capsules by mouth daily of the drug which was ten times the usual dose of the drug and almost double of what is known to be fatal. The man took the excessively high dose, which allowed his cancer to rapidly grow and led to his premature death. The actions of the pharmacist were grossly negligent. The doctor who issued the prescription admitted his medical error and settled with the family out of court. Mislabeling prescriptions is a common form of medical malpractice. To read more about the medical malpractice case, please click the link.

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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.