Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog

Whenever a person is injured after using a dangerous product, they are able to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, and potentially others in the chain of commerce who handled the item. In the case of dangerous medical products, sometimes there are many people who suffer the exact same or very similar injuries. In these cases, a class action lawsuit may be the best option for the injured patients.

pregnant-1435168Class Action Lawsuits in General

Generally speaking, class action lawsuits are beneficial for plaintiffs because they allow a large group of plaintiffs to argue their case together. Of course, this can save on legal costs, and it can also help the individual plaintiffs in their negotiations with the defendant manufacturer. However, class action lawsuits are not always appropriate.

One of the biggest hurdles to proceeding with a class action lawsuit is “certifying” the class. Before a class of plaintiffs can proceed against a defendant in a single case, the court must certify them as an official class. There are many requirements in order for a class to be certified, but one commonly argued issue is whether the injuries are similar.

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Drug manufacturers make billions of dollars each year from marking up medications that cost mere pennies to make but are often sold for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. While the manufacturing cost of most medication is relatively low, the reason consumers end up paying a high price for prescription drugs is based on other behind-the-scenes costs, including research and development as well as the cost of a potential problem with the drug resulting in a recall or significant lawsuit against the manufacturer.

drugs-ii-1505930Indeed, all pharmaceutical manufacturers have a duty to ensure that the product they release into the stream of commerce is safe when taken as advised by the company or a physician. Of course, companies may not necessarily always be held liable when an injury results from the abuse of one of their medications. However, when a medicine is taken properly, and an unanticipated adverse effect results due to unsafe manufacturing, the manufacturer may be liable to patients who suffered as a result. These cases are called product liability lawsuits, and they are commonly brought against the manufacturers of dangerous medications.

Proving a Product Liability Lawsuit

As with all personal injury lawsuits, it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove a product liability case. However, pharmaceutical manufacturers may be held to the legal standard of “strict liability” when it comes to a dangerous product. Under a strict liability theory, the plaintiff does not need to show negligence on the part of the manufacturer and must only show that the dangerous drug manufactured by the defendant was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. There are several types of product liability lawsuits, however, and an attorney should be consulted for specific advice.

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Whenever a patient is given the wrong prescription, or even the incorrect dose of a prescribed medication, the results can be devastating, depending on the medication provided as well as the individual patient. Children and the elderly are at a heightened risk for developing serious or fatal symptoms after a pharmacy error, so it is especially important that these individuals are hyper-vigilant when it comes to double-checking their pharmacist’s work.

medications-342456_960_720Anyone who has been to a pharmacy recently likely agrees that pharmacists are busy people. They are often responsible for hundreds – if not thousands – of prescriptions each day, often involving similarly named medications prescribed for drastically different ailments. It is only natural that every now and again a pharmacist will mix up two patients’ medications, or inadvertently grab the wrong medication and provide it to the patient.

When these mistakes happen, most of the time they are caught before a serious injury results. However, elderly patients with many prescriptions may forget to double-check the medication prior to taking it. If a serious injury occurs as a result, the pharmacy where the prescription was filled may be held liable in a Maryland pharmacy error lawsuit. Of course, pharmacists don’t make these mistakes on purpose, but when an oversight is made, it is the patient who pays the price.

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While many pharmacy errors are the result of an overworked or distracted pharmacist who provides the patient with the incorrect drug, there are a certain number of errors made each year due to prescription drugs being mis-labeled or mis-packaged by the drug’s manufacturer. In these cases, it is likely that the pharmacist on duty double-checked the prescription and provided the patient what he or she thought to be the correct medication, but due to a mistake that occurred before the pharmacist ever had control of the medication, the patient was provided with the wrong medication.

contraceptive-pills-849413_960_720Of course, drug manufacturers have a duty to properly package their products, as well as to include all relevant and necessary warnings on the packaging. When a drug leaves the manufacturer’s control with incorrect labeling, there is often little other parties can do to catch and fix the error. There are some circumstances, however, in which such an error will not likely excuse the pharmacist, and these are when the pharmacist has the occasion to see the unpackaged medication or is otherwise made aware of the error.

Not all packaging errors result in the patient being provided the wrong medication entirely. In fact, according to one recent news report, mis-packaged birth control medication resulted in over 100 unplanned pregnancies. According to one news source reporting on the 2011 recall, the order of the pills was reversed in the packaging. This resulted in a much higher chance of pregnancy.

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When most people think of a pharmacy error, they picture it occurring in a retail pharmacy or a pharmacy located in the back of a grocery store. However, a significant portion of the millions of pharmacy errors that occur each year nationwide happen in a hospital setting. One may think that a pharmacy error occurring at a hospital is less dangerous and less likely to result in serious injury or death because the patient is already at the hospital; however, the statistics indicate that is not the case.

medicine-848503_960_720When a hospital patient is provided the wrong medication by a nurse, it is most likely the pharmacy that is to blame because the nurse is usually just following the doctor’s instructions to give whatever medication the pharmacy provides to the patient. While it is certainly incumbent on the nurse to double-check the label on the drug they are about to provide to the patient, if the pharmacy creates an incorrect label for the medication, there is nothing the nurse can do to know there is an issue. In these cases, the hospital as well as the pharmacist may be liable for any injuries caused by their negligence.

Hospital Pharmacy Error Claims One Woman’s Life

Earlier this month in Oregon, the family of a woman who was killed when she was provided the incorrect medication while in the hospital reached a confidential settlement with the hospital where the error occurred. According to one local news source, the woman’s doctor prescribed her an anti-seizure medication to be administered intravenously. However, the hospital pharmacy made an error and provided the woman’s nurse with a paralyzing agent instead.

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Prescription drugs can be dangerous. Indeed, that is exactly why the government does not allow for them to be purchased over-the-counter and requires that a patient be prescribed the medication by a physician and then must pick up the medication at a pharmacy. The intent of creating a system like this one is that there are several lines of defense against a patient taking a medication that could be harmful to their health.

pills-1417417However, sometimes pharmacists make mistakes. The seriousness of pharmacy errors varies, but in many cases long-term and irreversible damage is caused by taking a non-prescribed medication. In other cases, a patient may die because of the side effects they experience from the prescribed drug or from the body’s reaction to not getting the medicine that they were prescribed. In these cases, the victim’s family may be able to pursue a case against the responsible pharmacist through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful death lawsuits seek compensation for the loss of a loved one due to a negligent action of another party. These cases are brought on behalf of the deceased, usually by a family member of the victim. In fact, one of the requirements of a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit is that it be brought by the proper party. Here in Maryland, that means that the lawsuit must be filed by a spouse, parent, or child of the deceased, if one exists. This category of people is called primary beneficiaries. If no primary beneficiary exists, then a secondary beneficiary may file the lawsuit. Establishing who qualifies as a secondary beneficiary can be tricky, but generally speaking that person must be related to the deceased by blood or marriage, and must have relied on the deceased for financial support.

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Earlier last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a “black box” warning for a birth control medication, Essure. According to one local news source reporting on the newly released warnings, there have been over 5,000 women who have reported negative side effects while using Essure. These side effects include unplanned pregnancy, miscarriages, still births, and severe pain and bleeding. There are also some reports of women developing auto-immune disorders after taking the medication.

warning-1191935Despite the negative side effects, the FDA will continue to allow Essure to be marketed and sold in the United States. The FDA decided against a pharmaceutical recall and implemented a high-alert warning instead. The warning, known as a “black box” warning, is the most serious type of warning issued by the FDA. It requires that physicians provide patients with a written waiver prior to prescribing the medication. The waiver outlines the harms that the drug may cause.

According to another news source, the general response to the FDA’s action among women who had used Essure was that it fell far short of doing what needed to be done:  issue a total recall. Support groups of women who have been harmed by Essure claim that the warning will not be taken seriously enough by prospective patients, and also that it fails to include all the potential side effects of using the product.

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Ideally, pharmacists would always provide their patients with the correct medication and dosing instructions. However, that is not the reality we live in. It seems as though each week several new reports of prescription errors arise, some with serious or fatal consequences. While the duty to prevent these errors lies with the pharmacist, there are some steps that can be taken to help reduce the frequency of pharmacy errors. In addition, there are also steps that should be taken once a prescription error is noticed.

health-846863_960_720According to a recent report, there are over 100,000 deaths each year from adverse drug interactions. Many of these are the result of a pharmacy error. In fact, it is estimated that each year, there are about 7,000 preventable fatalities due to mistakes made in a pharmacy setting. Pharmacists and the pharmacies that employ them may be held accountable for their mistakes through civil lawsuits based on the legal theory of negligence. However, how a victim of a prescription error handles the moments after discovering an error may affect the viability of any personal injury claim in the future. Thus, it is important that certain steps be taken after noticing that you have been provided the wrong medication by a pharmacist.

What to Do in the Wake of a Prescription Error

First, and most importantly, seek out medical treatment immediately. While some pharmacy errors are relatively benign, others can be fatal, depending on the patient as well as the medication. Patients should not attempt to treat themselves and should let a medical professional assess the situation.

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A pharmacist’s mistake in providing the wrong medication to a patient is always a serious concern, but never is it more serious than when the patient is a child. Children are much more susceptible to suffering serious or fatal side effects when given medication that was not prescribed to them. In fact, the manufacturers of many medications specifically state that the drug is not intended for the use of minors. It is therefore extremely important that pharmacists and parents do everything they can to ensure that a child is not given the wrong medication.

pills-1170825However, pharmacists are human, and busy ones at that. They often fill hundreds, if not thousands, of prescriptions each day. This constant flow of work can create an increased chance that something will break down in the system, and a child will be provided the wrong medication. However, the concern is not only that a child will be given the wrong medication altogether. Children are also at risk for serious injury or death if the dose they are provided is not correct.

When a pharmacist does make a mistake, and a child is harmed as a result, that pharmacist and the pharmacy employing him may be held financially liable in a negligence lawsuit. Despite what the media and the pharmacy industry may say, the ultimate burden is not on the parents or those who administer the medication to the child. The burden remains on the pharmacist.

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Chances are most people have heard of or read about someone being provided the wrong prescription or the wrong dose of a medication when they go to pick up their prescription from a retail pharmacy. In fact, these errors are quite common, with some estimates of the number of errors per year reaching into the millions. However, there are some things that people can do to help protect themselves against a pharmacist’s mistake.

purple-pills-1311459According to a recent article, the best way to think about preventing a pharmacy error is to think about each phase in which the system can break down, potentially leading to an error. Thus, the article discusses the three main locations where a patient should take a few extra steps to ensure their safety.

At the Doctor’s Office

Knowledge is key in the doctor’s office. Knowing which drug a doctor is prescribing for a patient will help a patient be able to identify if they are provided with a different medication. However, knowing why a patient is being prescribed a medication is also important. If the doctor includes the reason for the prescription in the text of the prescription, the pharmacist is much less likely to make an error by providing the wrong medication.

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