The Supreme Court of Alabama recently released an opinion granting the appellant’s request for the state’s high court to intervene in the case and compel the trial judge to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim as time-barred. The statute of limitations for the plaintiff’s claim had expired shortly before the defendant’s motion was filed, and the motion was ultimately granted because the plaintiff had originally sued the wrong entity after an oversight was made. After the error was discovered, the complaint was not amended to include the proper defendant until after the limitations period had expired. Since the court found that the requirements for an amended complaint to “relate back” to an original filing and toll the statute of limitations were not met, the plaintiff will be unable to recover damages for his pharmacy error claim.

Various PillsThe Plaintiff Alleges That a Dangerous Mistake Was Made

The plaintiff in the case of Ex Rel VEL, LLC is a former customer of a pharmacy owned and operated by the defendant. In the events leading to the filing of the lawsuit, the plaintiff was allegedly given an antipsychotic medicine, Risperidone, instead of his blood-pressure medicine, Ropinirole. After taking the wrong pills for four days, the plaintiff allegedly experienced an adverse health event and was hospitalized, at which point the error was ultimately discovered. Claiming that he suffered permanent and serious harm as a result of the mistake, he pursued a pharmacy error claim against the pharmacy that made the mistake.

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The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has released a report that discusses the most common pharmacy errors of 2016 and strategies to prevent these errors from harming patients in the future. The ISMP is an industry trade association containing pharmaceutical companies, doctors, pharmacists, and other medical professionals that regularly conducts observations and releases data related to prescription errors and the dangers these errors present to patients. According to the report, the most common type of pharmacy error committed in 2016 was dispensing the wrong medication to a patient, although other dangerous errors, including dosage and patient mix-ups, also ranked high on the list.

Assorted PillsThe Classes of Drugs Most Affected by Medication Errors

The ISMP study concluded that certain classes of drugs are more commonly associated with medication errors than others. According to a recent report discussing the results of the study, medication errors are most commonly associated with opioid narcotics, antibiotics, antipsychotics, and insulins.

More errors are committed in dispensing the correct dosage of opioid narcotic medicines than any other type of medicine. This is in large part due to the significant variance in tolerance and dosage from patient to patient. For example, a dose that is appropriate for one patient could cause an overdose in another, and pharmacists must ensure that they have the correct prescription information when filling these prescriptions. If something looks wrong, the pharmacist should contact the patient’s doctor directly rather than fill the prescription and provide it to the patient.

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A recently published news report details an extensive study that was performed by the Chicago Tribune last year to evaluate and compare pharmacies’ ability to detect dangerous drug combinations being prescribed to the same patient and filled at the same time. The study involved researchers visiting over 250 Chicago-area pharmacies and filling five various prescriptions, including one “dangerous combination” of drugs. The researchers intentionally chose combinations of drugs that could cause a serious illness or death if taken together and that should not have been dispensed together.

Random PillsOver Half of Pharmacies Missed the Deadly Combinations

Considering their decision to undertake such a large study, the researchers probably expected that a significant number of pharmacies would overlook the dangerous interactions and dispense the selected combinations to the undercover patient.  However, the final results were stunning. Over half of the prescriptions containing deadly combinations with instructions for concurrent use were filled by the pharmacist with no discussion or objection.

There are measures in place and mandatory safety checks to prevent these dangerous drugs from being dispensed together, but the pressure to perform quickly discourages pharmacists from taking important safety measures.

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Most deadly pharmacy errors can be traced to a mistake that may not be justifiable or excusable but is at least understandable. Errors such as dosage mistakes that result from a misplaced or removed decimal point, problems in which a patient receives the wrong medication because of a similarly named medication, or patients get mixed up by a pharmacy employee can usually be explained. Because of the serious, sometimes deadly consequences of prescription and pharmacy errors, the victims of these mistakes should be entitled to compensation if they or their loved one is injured, disabled, impaired, or killed as a result of a medical professional’s mistake.

IV Medication65-Year-Old Woman Receives Paralytic Agent Instead of Anti-Seizure Medication

The unfortunate case of an Oregon woman who died after receiving an intravenous dose of a dangerous medication from an inpatient hospital in 2014 demonstrates that some pharmacy errors and prescription mistakes defy all logical explanation and simply cannot be reasonably explained. In this tragic instance, a woman who was physically healthy when she checked herself into a hospital for symptoms of anxiety was dead two days later after receiving a medication that she had not been prescribed and that should not have been administered to any patient in the dose that she received.

According to a local news report, law enforcement authorities have recently announced that they will not pursue criminal charges against the medical professional who prepared the IV containing the paralytic agent rocuronium instead of the anti-seizure medication, fosphenytoin, that the woman’s physician had ordered. Authorities announced that it would not be in the interest of justice to prosecute the wrongdoer, while implying that they did have sufficient evidence for a conviction in the tragic death.

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While doctors prescribe medication to patients, they have to rely on pharmacists to fill the prescriptions correctly, and when pharmacists are overworked, errors increase—putting patients at greater risk.

Medication BottleThere are a number of work conditions that may cause an increase in errors. For example, many pharmacists are required to fill a high number of prescriptions every hour. Some pharmacists claim they have too many prescriptions to fill in one shift in addition to receiving orders, talking to insurers, and counseling patients. A senior pharmacist interviewed for a recent report explained that some pharmacists are required to fill over 30 prescriptions an hour, which equates to two minutes per prescription. On top of that, pharmacists must also check for potential drug interactions for each prescription and counsel patients who have questions about their prescribed medications.

One study published in the American Journal of Health-Systems Pharmacy showed that overworked pharmacists lead to an increase in prescription errors. The study looked at prescription errors in a large hospital pharmacy and found the number of errors increased with the number of orders a pharmacist filled in one shift. Other pharmacists complain that they are required to fill general customer service duties in stores in addition to fulfilling their duties as pharmacists.

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Technological advances in medicine over the past 50 years have greatly benefited patients through the use of emerging treatments and technology-assisted procedures that allow doctors and other medical providers to provide better care to their patients faster and at a lower cost. As many parts of the medical field have rapidly progressed through the information age, certain areas of the profession continue to lag behind other industries, and this arguably prevents doctors and other medical professionals from giving their patients the best treatment possible. Medical record-keeping practices serve as an example of how the profession has not quite caught up with the rest of society, and patients can be harmed as a result.

KeyboardMany Doctors Still Use the Color-Coded Charts for Patients’ Medical History

A patient’s medical history contains some of the most important information that doctors need to know before diagnosing and treating a condition or prescribing medication. The patient’s “chart” provides a place for this important information to be recorded, and it has often consisted of an actual paper chart that is physically stored for each patient at a doctor’s office (often in some sort of color-coded folder that is stored behind the receptionist). Although this system has generally worked for the last 100 years that it has been in use, it is an obsolete relic of an older time that is due for replacement.

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It is common for the victims of prescription mistakes and other potentially dangerous medical errors to feel sympathy for medical professionals who made a mistake that could form the basis for a lawsuit. In fact, some victims decide not to report an error or make a claim because they feel guilty revealing a potentially career-ending mistake that was innocently made by a pharmacist or another medical professional.

PillsAlthough this feeling is understandable, the victims of pharmacy errors should not feel guilty about bringing claims seeking damages to which they are entitled. In fact, pharmacy error claims ultimately benefit not only the retail pharmaceutical industry and pharmacists as a whole, but also the American people by helping form a professional and respected occupation that is responsible for the health and lives of our citizens.

Pharmacy Industry Report Discusses the Motivation Within the Industry that is Caused by Error Claims

An article recently published by a pharmaceutical industry magazine attempts to show the issue of pharmacy errors from a pharmacist’s perspective. In the report, one pharmacist is spotlighted, and he discusses the effect that pharmacy errors have had on his career. Referring to the errors as “inevitable” in the careers of pharmacists, the article demonstrates the idea that pharmacy error claims and lawsuits, and more specifically the desire to avoid them, provide a great deal of motivation to those in the pharmaceutical industry and may actually improve the overall quality of care by incentivizing accuracy when dispensing prescription medications.

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A recently published medical industry report attempts to point out the surprising threat that American patients face every day in doctor’s offices and hospitals due to the small print that is used on many prescription forms, medication bottles, and medical review materials. The report, which was supplied to the publisher by a company seeking to profit from the present-day problem, notes that a survey of health care professionals performed in 2014-2015 found that almost 90% of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals reported difficulty reading the small print found on drug labels and that over 35% were aware of a close call or actual prescription error that occurred because of the small print on some medical materials.

Pill BottleDoctors Who Don’t Need Reading Glasses or Assistance From a Colleague with Adequate Vision May Make Mistakes and then Blame the Small Print

The report contains startling information that millions of patients may be placed at risk every day because doctors and nurses are unable to read medication bottles correctly, and some of these professionals apparently do not take the initiative to ensure that their eyes are functioning well enough to protect their patients from a pharmacy or medical error stemming from a piece of medical literature that is read incorrectly. The article seems to place the blame for these errors and any injuries, illnesses, or deaths they cause upon the small print that is used on medication bottles. However, the bottom line is that medical professionals are responsible for reading what is on medication bottles and other literature before they give a potentially dangerous medication to a patient.

If a medical professional is unable to read a piece of text and does not seek assistance by consulting a colleague, putting on some glasses, using an app on their smartphone, or using a piece of magnification equipment to ensure that they understand what they are doing, they should be held responsible for any injuries that are caused by their mistake.

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Prescription errors are common and can occur in a variety of circumstances. They can be made by a doctor prescribing a medication or by a pharmacist filling a prescription. They can be made by providing the incorrect dosage, or they can occur by providing the wrong drug. For example, some drug names that are similar can be confused, and a prescription may be filled with the wrong medication. The Institute for Safe Medicine has even comprised a list of commonly mixed-up drug names. Also, a pharmacist may simply misinterpret or misread a doctor’s prescription. Any of these mistakes can have serious consequences for patients.

PharmacyVictims of prescription errors may be entitled to monetary compensation, but they or their loved one will need to establish that a defendant acted negligently by doing or failing to do something. This means the plaintiff has to show the defendant failed to meet the “standard of care,” which generally requires the medical professional to use the same practices and procedures that other medical professionals would use in the situation.

Since medical malpractice cases, including prescription errors, involve complicated medical information, it is important to hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney who understands how to interpret medical information and knows how to use experts effectively. The damages resulting from a prescription error case can be devastating, and injured parties should be compensated fairly for their losses.

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Many pharmacy errors result in the wrong dose of the prescribed medication being given to a patient by mistake, or the dosage instructions being printed incorrectly on the bottle. Thus, even when taking their medicines as directed, some patients are receiving significantly more (or less) medication than their doctor prescribed. A recently published article from a local news source discusses a case in which a pharmacy accidentally dispensed 10 times the prescribed amount of an antipsychotic medication to a young boy, who took the drug for several months before the error was noticed.

Assorted PillsBoy Receives Prescription for 0.3 mg of Risperidone to Treat Behavioral Issues

According to the report, the boy and his mother visited a psychiatrist for treatment of psychological and behavioral problems. The doctor prescribed the antipsychotic medication Risperidone to the boy with instructions to consume 0.3 mg of the drug per dose. For several months, the pharmacy failed to see the decimal point and dispensed medication with instructions for the boy to consume three mg for each dose.

For months, the boy was taking intoxicating and dangerous levels of the drug. His mother visited several doctors, trying to determine what was wrong. Eventually, doctors noticed that the boy was receiving 10 times the amount he was prescribed, and the mother visited the pharmacy for answers.

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