Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog

Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia, alleging that improperly packaged birth control medication resulted in over 100 unplanned and unintended pregnancies. According to one national news source, the drugs involved are Cyclafem, Emoquette, Gildess, Orsythia, Previfem, and Tri-Previfem.

the-pill-1426661Evidently, the birth control medication was packaged incorrectly, decreasing the drug’s effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. Normally, birth control medication comes in a blister pack, one pill for each day of the month. Twenty-one of the pills contain hormones that prevent pregnancy, and seven of the pills are a placebo. Women taking the medication are supposed to take it in order, without mixing the hormone pills with the placebo pills. By incorrectly packaging the drug and mixing up the order of the pills, the plaintiffs allege that the manufacturer of the medication was negligent and that its negligence resulted in the unplanned pregnancies.

A few days prior to the filing of this lawsuit, a similar one was filed in Georgia. However, the judge hearing that case denied the plaintiffs’ request to be certified as a class in order to proceed as a class action lawsuit. The judge explained that “each plaintiff must show in an individualized manner which ‘physical symptoms’ she suffered, her medical history, and whether her use of any allegedly defective product resulted in these physical symptoms or a pregnancy.” Since each of the women’s situations was different, the judge declined the request to certify the class.

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Late last month on Halloween, a Canadian pharmacy accidentally provided medication used to treat bipolar disorder to young trick-or-treaters who visited the store. According to one local news source that covered the story, seven children are known to have actually taken the medication in place of candy. However, all of the pills were located before they were consumed by the children.

candy-1327076Evidently, the pharmacy had a candy bin out on the pharmacy counter so that young trick-or-treaters could help themselves as their parents conducted their business. However, at some point in the day, a customer who was visiting the pharmacy to fill her 17-year-old son’s prescription for quetiapine and divalproex inadvertently dropped the medication on the floor prior to leaving.

Another customer, thinking she was preventing a potential mix-up, picked up the medication off the floor and put it on the counter, next to the candy bin. Shortly afterward, a pharmacy employee saw the pills sitting next to the bin and then dumped them into the candy bin. Seven of the individually wrapped pills were given out to children over the course of the day before management discovered what had occurred.

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Earlier last month, a new study was released that claims post-operation medication errors can occur in as many as one in every two patients. According to one local news source that covered the new study, the study was performed at Massachusetts General Hospital and looked at roughly 275 surgeries.

hospital-6-1518170The results came back indicating that in the post-operation setting some kind of human error or “adverse event” occurred in about 50% of all patients. Prescriptions that were filled in the hospital showed an error rate of about 5%. Most of the prescription errors fell into several categories:  incorrect dosing, drug documentation problems, drug labeling mistakes, and improperly documenting patients’ vital signs. Researchers believe that about 80% of the errors they found could be classified as “preventable,” had appropriate measures been taken.

The researchers found that about 5% of those patients who were provided a wrong medication or dose had “negative effects” from the administration of the drug. Two-thirds of the errors were considered “serious,”and 2% of the errors were classified as “life threatening.”

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Earlier this month in Oregon, a jury awarded a man’s personal representative $12.2 million for the man’s injuries, which included severe brain damage after he was administered a dose that was 15 times stronger than prescribed. According to one local news report, the alleged medical malpractice took place back in 2011, when the man was provided medication to help his heartbeat stabilize.

pills-1189537Evidently, the anesthesiologist in charge of the man’s care provided him with a dose of 2,700 milligrams of amiodarone instead of the 150-milligram dose that was prescribed by the surgeon. As a result, the man suffered severe brain damage. The court appointed a conservator, who filed a medical malpractice case against the hospital, the anesthesiologist, and the agency that contracted the anesthesiologist to the hospital.

At trial, it came out that the anesthesiologist misread some figures on a hospital computer screen and grabbed three 900-milliliter bottles, thinking they were just 50-milliliter bottles.

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Pharmacies, like other businesses, are operated for profit, and labor is one of the main expenses for a pharmacy. Therefore, a pharmacy that hopes to remain profitable will likely try and provide only enough pharmacists who will be able to fill the prescriptions for the patients who come through the door. Excess pharmacists means the pharmacy is losing money in labor costs.

clock-1196246However, as one recent industry news source points out, the evaluation metric being used by some pharmacies feels a lot like a quota system where pharmacists are pressured into fill prescriptions as quickly as possible. This, of course, could have a detrimental effect on the pharmacist’s accuracy.

Pharmacy Errors Across the Country

Each year, there are an estimated one million medication errors that occur throughout the United States. Of those patients that are provided with an inaccurate medication, about 7,000 will die each year. This makes prescription errors one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the country.

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Earlier this month in New Jersey, a nurse who arrived at an employer’s office to provide influenza vaccinations to the employees made a “gross oversight” and reused the same syringe for all 70 vaccinations. According to one local news report, the nurse also failed to administer the proper dose of the vaccine to many of the people whom she was supposed to vaccinate.

syringes-and-vial-1307461Evidently, the nurse did change the needles between each patient but not the syringe. The health risk has been classified as “low,” but all employees who were given a vaccine were encouraged to get an HIV and Hepatitis test to make sure they did not contract either of the serious and potentially life-changing diseases.

Employees were also informed to get another flu vaccine, since the nurse improperly dosed each of the vaccines, reducing the vaccine’s effectiveness.

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Earlier this month in New Zealand, a pharmacist was reprimanded by the governing professional board after it was discovered that he made an error in providing a patient with the wrong medication and then tried to cover up his mistake. According to one industry news source, the pharmacist accidentally provided an elderly patient with a chemotherapy drug rather than his prescribed immunosuppressant medication.

A standard orange prescription bottle full of yellow pills. The information on the label has been covered. A few pills sit outside the bottle, at its base.

Evidently, the elderly patient had recently undergone a kidney transplant and was prescribed an immunosuppressant as a part of his recovery. However, when the man went to fill the prescription, he was provided a chemotherapy drug instead. It was not until three weeks later that the man returned, asking the pharmacist why his pills had changed, that the pharmacist discovered that there may have been an error. He told the patient to stop taking the drug.

Upon investigating the error, the filling pharmacist discovered that he was the one who had filled the prescription. Once he realized that he had made the error, the pharmacist failed to report the error. The Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner, who oversees pharmacists, explained to reporters that the pharmacist should have provided the patient with counseling as well as reported the error. It was not until the pharmacy owner later discovered that the chemotherapy drug supply was depleted that management knew there had been an error. He then made the appropriate report.

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Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a warning regarding the confusing packaging on the intravenous antibacterial drug Avycaz. According to one industry news source, the announcement was made after there were several reports of errors made in the dosing of the drug to patients. Evidently, the strength of the medication that was listed on the outside of the carton or vial was difficult to decipher for pharmacy personnel.

pills-1523293The confusion apparently arose because of the way that the label listed which substances were actually contained inside each package. Avycaz contains two active ingredients, ceftazidime and avibactam. The previous labels list each separate ingredient and its amount next to the drug’s name. For example Avycaz 2g/.5g means that the drug contained 2g of ceftazidime and .5g of avibactam. The new label will be more descriptive, explaining that the package contains a total of 2.5g of medication, which consists of 2g of ceftazidime and .5g of avibactam.

The Reported Errors

According to the article, there had been three reported errors since the drug’s approval back in February of this year. Two of the errors occurred as the drug was being prepared by the pharmacist, while the third arose due to the confusion in the language on the drug’s packaging. The FDA reported that at least one patient received and ingested a higher-than-prescribed dose, but there had been no adverse effects reported.

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Earlier this month, a study was released in the American Journal of Health Systems Pharmacy that looked at error rates in hospital pharmacies. Specifically, the study considered the link between the number of incoming orders over the course of a given shift and the prescription error rate. Not surprisingly, the results of the study indicated that the busier the pharmacy, the more likely that there would be a pharmacy error made.

blue-pills-1329868The study took place in Houston, Texas, between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012. Over the course of the study, over 1.9 million prescriptions were filled by about 50 pharmacists. In total, there were 92 prescription errors recorded.

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Earlier this month, a prescription drug designed and marketed for the treatment of some kinds of cancer, including brain cancer, was recalled because a number of the bottles that contained the drug had faulty caps. According to one industry news report, the caps of approximately 1,100 bottles of the prescription drug, Temozolomide, have the potential to crack, nullifying the childproof nature of the cap.

medicine-1413970Evidently, the side effects of the medication are potentially severe, even for adults, and can include respiratory failure, terminated pregnancy, infertility, severe vomiting, and nausea. To ensure that the medication is not ingested by curious children, the U.S. government requires that potentially dangerous drugs like Temozolomide are packaged in childproof packaging. However, for an unknown reason, the caps on a significant number of these bottles were defective.

Specifically, the bottles that may be in danger of having cracked lids were sold between July 2013 and August 2015. The bottles at issue are the five- and 14-count brown bottles with black lettering. Merck, the manufacturer of the drug, has told patients to inspect the caps of their medication and to remove the bottles from the reach of children. In addition, Merck has suggested that all pharmacists who handle bottles of Temozolomide double check to ensure that the caps are in good condition. Of course, any bottle that does have a cracked lid should not be distributed to a patient.

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