Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog

When most people think of a pharmacy error, they think of a retail pharmacist providing the wrong drug to a patient who then takes it up to the register, checks out, and goes home to take the medication in their own home. However, this only accounts for a portion of the prescriptions that are filled each day in the United States. In fact, countless other prescriptions are provided to hospital patients and nursing home residents.

medicine-1325116Unlike prescriptions filled at a retail pharmacy, prescriptions that are filled in a hospital have a few added layers of protection in place to prevent against the patient being provided the wrong medication. For example, after a doctor writes a prescription to a hospital patient, and the pharmacy fills the prescription, a nurse must obtain the medication and deliver it to the patient. This is a critical role that allows for the nurse to act as a final line of defense against serious or fatal prescription errors.

However, despite all the precautions in the world, sometimes errors will occur. When a prescription error does occur, it may result in very serious injuries or even death in some cases. Under Maryland law, the victims of these mistakes can look to the legal system for help through a pharmacy error lawsuit.

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When a patient goes to the doctor and is given a prescription, one of the first things the patient is likely to ask is “what are the potential side effects?” Indeed, most pharmaceutical drugs have side effects of some kind, ranging from the mild to the more severe. In some cases, there is even the risk of serious injury or death.

pills-1189537Ultimately, the choice is left up to the patient to weigh the risks of taking the medication against continuing to suffer from their current ailment. However, when a drug company markets its drug in a misleading fashion, the patient cannot make an educated decision about the pros and cons of taking the prescription mediation.

In these types of cases, it is possible that a patient who is hurt after taking a medication can sue the drug manufacturer, alleging one of several available theories. In essence, many personal injury claims based on dangerous pharmaceuticals allege that, had the patient known the real dangers of taking the medication at the time, they would not have taken it. Of course, these cases are quite complex and often rely on medical and scientific expert testimony to prove the necessary causation element.

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The use of prescription opioid painkillers has soared over the past few years. In fact, according to one recent news article, the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers has increased more than 300 percent over the past 15 years. While the medication may be helpful to those suffering from severe pain, this increase in the prevalence of addictive and dangerous medication has led to an increase in the number of addictions and overdoses. Additionally, the prevalence and ease of obtaining prescription painkillers can also act as a “gateway” to heroin, which is a cheaper and more effective drug for those addicted to opioid painkillers.

pills-1540566Physician Liability for Painkiller Overdoses

While it is legally possible for a physician to be held accountable in a court of law for negligently prescribing addictive painkillers to a patient, it is not exceedingly common. This is for a number of reasons. First, there must be some “harm” suffered by the patient. This generally requires more than an addiction to a prescription drug. However, if a patient overdoses and is seriously injured or dies as a result of the overdose, that may satisfy the damages requirement.

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Pharmacists across the United States fill hundreds of thousands of prescriptions each day and, since they are human and prone to making mistakes, there are estimated to be hundreds of errors per day in pharmacies across the country. Some of these errors are minor or will be caught before the patient leaves the pharmacy. However, others may result in serious injury or even death in some cases.

tablet-1321897One type of mistake a pharmacist can make is a dosing error. A dosing error occurs when the pharmacist provides the correct drug to the patient but fills the prescription with an incorrect dose. There are several possible causes for a dosing error. However, most often they are caused by a rushed or overworked pharmacist trying to fill prescriptions for large numbers of waiting patients.

FDA Cautions Pharmacists Regarding Noxafil

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a caution to pharmacists that the different formulations of the prescription drug Noxafil, manufactured by Merck, cannot be directly substituted for one another. According to one industry news source, since the delayed-release version of the drug was approved by the FDA back in 2011, there have been 11 documented cases in which a patient was provided the wrong dose by a pharmacist. In fact, one of those cases resulted in the hospitalization and another in the death of the patient.

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Pharmacies are places people go to get better. When a patient walks into a pharmacy with an ailment, they expect that they will be able to obtain the relief they need, either by speaking with a pharmacist about their condition or by selecting the over-the-counter medication that fits their specific needs. However, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs are commonly recalled for causing various side effects, ranging from the uncomfortable to the life-threatening.

need-a-pill-1057199Of course, a pharmacy may not know that a medication they are selling to their patients is harmful. However, there is a duty imposed on pharmacy owners and pharmacists to familiarize themselves with the latest recalls and product news about the medications they stock and sell. If someone is injured by a product, the injured patient may be able to seek monetary compensation from not only the manufacturer of the drug but also anyone else in the chain of distribution, including the pharmacy that sold them the medication.

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Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case reinforcing the laws surrounding whom the manufacturer of a medication must warn about the potentially dangerous side effects of the medication. In the case, Yates v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharma., Inc., the Court ultimately determined that the duty to warn extends only to the physician, and not to the patient. Thus, the patient’s case against the drug manufacturer was properly dismissed by a lower court.

medicine-5-1544051Yates v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharma., Inc.

The plaintiff was a sexually active woman who was suffering from extreme menstrual cramps and consulted her doctor about potential medications that may help her. The doctor told her of two choices, ORTHO-EVRA and Depo-Provera. The doctor warned the plaintiff that there was some risk of blood clotting and stroke with ORTHO-EVRA, and the plaintiff decided to first try Depo-Provera.

After a few months, the plaintiff noticed she had gained weight, which was a side effect of Depo-Provera. She consulted her doctor, who again advised her of the risks associated with ORTHO-EVRA, and this time she decided to give it a try. The plaintiff suffered a stroke during the application of her first weekly patch. The woman filed a lawsuit against ORTHA-EVRA’s manufacturer, alleging that the company did not adequately warn her of the risks involved with taking the medication.

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Pharmacy errors occur at an alarming rate across the United States. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, there are approximately 1.3 million people who are injured each year by an error made in the pharmacy setting. These errors range in both severity and cause, but the bottom line is that they are almost all due to an overburdened pharmacist making a mistake in the heat of the moment.

pills-1158992Although most pharmacy errors are complete accidents or oversights, that does not excuse the negligent pharmacist from fault. In fact, Maryland law allows for any person who is harmed by a pharmacist’s negligence to recover compensation for their injuries and emotional distress through a personal injury lawsuit.

There are several common scenarios that give rise to serious pharmacy errors, including when a pharmacist provides the wrong type of medication to the patient, provides the right drug but the wrong dose or strength of the medication, provides the wrong dosage instructions, fails to warn the patient of interactions with commonly taken over-the-counter medications or other known prescriptions, or fails to advise the patient of expected or possible side effects of the medication.

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Almost all personal injury cases must be brought within a certain amount of time. The laws that set forth the specific amount of time in each type of case are called statutes of limitations. A plaintiff’s failure to bring a suit in the applicable amount of time under the statute of limitations can mean that the plaintiff forever loses the ability to bring that case.

tablets-1484886Maryland Pharmacy Error Cases

Under Maryland law, personal injury and medical malpractice cases must be brought within either three or five years, depending on the specific circumstances of the alleged injury and when it was discovered by the plaintiff. Under the general rule, a lawsuit must be brought within three years of the discovery of the injury. However, no claims will be allowed after five years of the date of the injury.

When the “clock” starts ticking is sometimes up to interpretation. For example, in some pharmacy error or medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff’s injury is not immediately apparent. In these cases, the plaintiff will have up to five years from the time the injury occurred to bring the lawsuit. Importantly, this may be different from when the injury was discovered by the plaintiff.

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You may have heard of a wrongful death claim that is brought by an aggrieved loved one after the passing of their family member due to the negligence of someone else. However, there also exists a “wrongful birth” claim that can arise when a woman becomes pregnant despite her best efforts to prevent the pregnancy.

birth-control-1508592There are several kinds of birth control, and none of them are 100% effective all of the time. However, when a medication or a birth control device works properly, they are generally about 99% effective. If a birth control medication fails to do what it is designed to do, and a woman becomes pregnant, the woman may be able file a wrongful life claim against the manufacturer of the medical device or medication and potentially against the doctor as well.

Each case is different, but it is standard that a successful plaintiff is able to recover the expenses of the medical treatment sought throughout the pregnancy. In some cases, she may be able to recover the costs of raising the child, up to the age of 18.

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Earlier this month in New Zealand, a woman who was traveling throughout the country suffered worsening depression and potentially other long-term side effects after a pharmacist provided her with the wrong medication. According to one local news source, the woman went to see a general practice doctor who refilled her prescription of an SSRI medication used to treat her depression.

pills-1509297Evidently, the woman took the refill to a nearby pharmacy to get it filled. However, the filling pharmacist provided the woman with Duride instead of the SSRI medication. Duride is a cardiac medication typically used to treat angina. The error, however, was not immediately discovered. It took some time for the woman to notice a worsening in her depression. She began to once again suffer from anxiety, migraines, and heart palpitations. Her relationship broke down, and she was unable to find a job. She eventually went back to the doctor, who upon seeing the packaging of the medication she was taking, immediately knew it was not the SSRI she had been prescribed.

The doctor notified the pharmacy of the error. The pharmacist has since told reporters that there was “no explanation” for the mix-up. He also noted that, at the time of the error, the two medications had similar packaging and were near each other on the shelf. The pharmacist took full responsibility, noting that the pharmacy technician that day was not involved in the error, and he also apologized to the patient for the error.

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