Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog

Recently disclosed federal court filings have revealed settlement agreements between the U.S. Government and PhyAmerica Corp, a Louisville, Kentucky company that is the nation’s second-largest operator of institutional pharmacies. One of the lawsuits focused on the company’s widespread misuse of Depakote, a seizure drug. According to one news source, the complaint alleged the drug was routinely being prescribed to elderly patients off label to treat other ailments that would have been better treated with the approved medications.

drugs-ii-183492-mAccording to the article, the company was allegedly encouraging doctors to prescribe the drug to patients off-label because of an agreement with the drug manufacturer that gave the defendant financial kickbacks for prescribing Depakote. These were kickbacks that they would not have gotten for prescribing drugs that were approved to treat the underlying conditions.

The vast majority of the patients being misprescribed the drugs had their care being financed by the federal government through Medicare and didn’t notice the increased costs, although Pharmerica Corp. allegedly helped to defraud the government out of billions of dollars by encouraging the prescription of Depakote off label.

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medicine-3-321384-mWhen children are sick, they rely on their parents to provide them with the medical care and medication that they need. Most of the time, parents are able to determine what their child needs and can provide it to them on their own. However, since children’s bodies are so small, a dosing error can easily occur if a parent is not careful.

A recent article written by one of the pharmacists at the Poison Control Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia goes over some things that parents can do to help ensure that they do not accidentally administer too much, too little, or the wrong type of medication to their children.

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Earlier this month in Orlando, Florida, a woman collapsed and was admitted to the hospital after she was given a dose of medication by her pharmacist that was ten-times stronger than prescribed by her doctor. According to a recent report by one local Florida news source, the woman was filling her blood-pressure medication at a local Walgreen’s when she was provided with the wrong pills.

prescription-bottle---blank-label-991548-mThe woman had been taking the medication for a number of years and recalls noticing that the pills were a little larger than her normal prescription, but told reporters that she figured she had just been provided with a generic form of the drug. However, after she took just one pill she collapsed as she approached her bed; luckily it padded her fall.

Evidently, the pills that the pharmacist provided her were ten-times stronger than what her doctor had prescribed; rather than being 10mg, the pills were 100mg. The pills were the same shape, slightly larger, and had the same markings as her normal pills. When confronted about the error, the pharmacist told the woman’s husband that the 10mg pills were on the same shelf right next to the 100mg pills.

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Pharmacies are businesses. And, like all businesses, the number one goal of a pharmacy is to remain profitable. Of course, most pharmacists are good people and truly care about their patients. However, the pharmacists are rarely the ones making the staffing policies that can lead to pharmacy errors.

drugs-i-183490-mIt has been argued by some sources that many, if not most, of the prescription errors that occur today are caused by overworked pharmacists. An understaffed pharmacy is much more likely to send out a prescription with an unprescribed medication, an incorrect dose, or a wrong number of pills.

This trade-off between the profit and safety has caused some concern over the past few years in the field. However, one new trend that is appearing in pharmacies across the country threatens to worsen the already imperfect system by applying another set of pressures on already overworked pharmacists.

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Earlier this month, one woman in New Zealand was forced to abandon her in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempt when she was provided the wrong dose of a necessary medication by her local pharmacy. According to a report by a New Zealand news source, the woman was undergoing a frozen egg transfer as part of her IVF treatment. As a part of that procedure, she was prescribed oestradiol valerate.

baby-foot-1088884-mThe medicine was faxed to her pharmacy. The receiving pharmacist typed in the first few letters of the medication, and the computer automatically populated the result: oestriol. The pharmacist filled the prescription for oestriol rather than oestradiol valerate.

When the woman went to pick up her prescription, she didn’t notice the mistake. She accepted the medicine from the pharmacist and began taking it according to the label’s instructions.

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The VA is getting some heat for the negligent filling of veterans’ prescriptions. According to a recent report by the Washington Times, one VA employee was terminated from his employment and in response filed an appeal, claiming that any errors he may have made were made by others in the Administration. Be that as it may, he then claimed that he was targeted for other, impermissible reasons.

blue-pills-363210-mThe terminated employee pointed to several errors made over the course of the last few years, specifically a 2001 incident when a chemotherapy patient was given a fatal dose of his medication. To be exact, it was a dose that was five times what it should have been. The dismissed employee also submitted interviews with other VA employees, one of whom claimed that “errors might be pointed out, but in a global sense, nobody is going to be publicly identified and held out to dry for a mistake.”

This has led to a strong public reaction against the VA for failing to adequately discipline those employee’s who were negligent in the performance of their duties. However, even if the VA is unwilling to reprimand these employees, any victim of a pharmacist’s error may hold the responsible party liable by bringing a civil suit for damages.

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Earlier this month in the Orlando, Florida area, a woman was hospitalized after she was provided the incorrect medication by her local Walgreen’s pharmacy. According to one local news source, the woman had been prescribed an antihistamine for her allergies, a drug that she had been prescribed on-and-off since 2011.

poison-574986-mEvidently, the woman was prescribed a generic form of Zyrtec by her doctor, but she was provided medication designed to lower patients’ blood sugar. After taking the medication, she began to feel extremely lethargic and was slurring her words. She was a piano teacher by trade, and the woman’s students called their parents telling them that something was wrong with their instructor.

The woman was hospitalized for “poisoning.” Her blood sugar, which is usually up in the 90s, was down in the 30s. She thanks her students for catching the problem and calling their parents. Otherwise, she says, she likely would have ended up in a coma.

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Earlier this month in Edmonton, Canada, a family with a child almost lost him to a morphine overdose that was caused by a pharmacist making an error in the prescription given to the young child. According to one local news report, the baby was prescribed a very low dose of morphine by the family’s doctor. However, when the family took the prescription to get filled, it was filled at a much larger dose.

hipocondraco-ii-349987-mWhen the young child’s grandmother began to give him the medication, she noticed that after about three suckles of it he began to drool. His eyes rolled back into his head, and both of his arms went limp. The family called 911, and the baby was taken to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, emergency workers confirmed that the child had suffered an overdose of morphine. As it turns out, the compound provided to the child by the filling pharmacy was 100 times more potent than prescribed.

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Earlier this year in Lincoln County, Kentucky, a father filed a wrongful death suit against a local CVS pharmacy for their alleged involvement in his son’s death. According to one local news source, the lawsuit filed by the man names the CVS in Danville, Kentucky as well as several employees in the store.

pills-vitamins-534531-mEvidently, the man’s son was admitted to the hospital for a pulmonary embolism and upon his discharge was prescribed several medications by his physician. After his discharge, he went to his local CVS pharmacy and filled the prescriptions. The pharmacy gave him the wrong medication. However, since these were not prescriptions that he normally takes, it wasn’t until two days later that he noticed the medications provided by the pharmacy were not the ones prescribed by his doctor.

He was taken to the hospital by a friend of the family and entered into a fatal cardiac arrest 10 days later. The boy’s father is seeking damages for his son’s pain and suffering, death, loss of earning capacity, and medical and funeral expenses. CVS has not yet responded to or made any public comment on the lawsuit.

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Earlier this month in British Columbia, Canada, an 18-year-old young man was given blood-pressure medicine by his local pharmacy instead of the acne medication prescribed by his doctor. According to one local Canadian news source, the error was harmless in that the young man’s mother caught the error after being on high alert after reading about the increased frequency of prescription errors in an earlier article.

purple-pills-2-161251-mEvidently, the woman picked up her son’s medication at the pharmacy, and all seemed normal. However, when he opened up the bottle, he noticed that the pills didn’t look the same as they usually did. His mother, who was luckily right there at the time, told her son not to take the medication despite his insistence that the medication must have been the right one because it was provided by the pharmacist.

Thankfully, the young man did not ingest any of the blood-pressure medication. Had he done so, the results could have been catastrophic, since he is a novice pilot and is in the air flying solo much of the time. Had he taken the medication and passed out while flying, the results could have been tragic.

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