January 27, 2010

Lawsuit Accuses Hospital of Medication Mistake and Wrongful Death

by Lebowitz & Mzhen

In a recent lawsuit that our Maryland Pharmacy Mistake Lawyers have been following, a hospital is being sued for dispensing an overdose of pain medicine to a 68-year old woman, which allegedly led to her wrongful death.

Mable Mosley was taken to the Brandon Regional Hospital last year complaining of neck and shoulder pain. She checked into the hospital on a Saturday, and within a few days stopped breathing. Mosley was put on life support, and died days later.

Mosley’s husband is suing the hospital, the hospital owners, and seven individual pharmacists in the case, claming medication negligence and wrongful death—that his wife was given enough pain medicine to end her life.

The drug in question that Mosley received is called Duragesic, a patch containing large concentrations of opioid fentanyl, a potent narcotic approved in 1990 by the FDA for use in patients that have become opioid-tolerant from using another strong narcotic pain medication for a week or longer.

Opioids are chemicals that are commonly prescribed because of their pain relieving properties. Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors, or proteins, found in the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract. When the drugs attach to the opioid receptors, they can block out the body’s perception of pain.

Duragesic is only recommended to be used by “opioid-tolerant” people. In 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned against the use of fentanyl patches with patients who are not opioid-tolerant. According to the FDA warning, even the lowest strength fentanyl patch can cause severe side effects, and even death. Mable Mosley, according to the suit, was not opioid-tolerant.

The lawsuit states that Mosley arrived in the ER with a high level of pain. The doctor who admitted her allegedly prescribed three pain medications, morphine sulfate, toradol and dilaudid, which significantly dropped her high level of pain. The suit alleges that later in the day, the same doctor then prescribed a 50-microgram Duragesic fentanyl patch.

The next day the doctor reportedly increased the Duragesic fentanyl patch dosage to 75 micrograms, and the following day to 100 micrograms. He then ordered additional medication called Neurotonin that treats nerve injury pain.

The suit alleges that all pharmacists should know that fentanyl patches are slow working pain relievers. Because of the skin patch, the delivery of the drug through the skin means that the highest levels of medication may not be reached for days. For Mosely, the second dose was applied less than 12 hours after the first. The manufacturer advises to wait 72 hours before increasing the pain medication dosage and the Duragesic leaflet warns that elderly patients should start with a patch that releases no more than 35 micrograms per hour. The suit claims that the hospital’s computerized “Narcotic Delivery System” didn’t catch the alleged medication mistake either.

According to the death summary, Mosley was described as obese and suffering from sleep apnea. The report did not mention fentanyl, rather stated that she became claustrophobic while getting an MRI, was nauseous and vomited before aspirating.

Our medication mistake attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen, LLC are committed to making sure that medication error victims and their loved ones receive the personal injury compensation they deserve. If you or someone you loved has been injured or died due to a pharmacy error in the Washington D.C. area or in the state of Maryland, contact us at 1-800-654-1949 to schedule your free consultation.

Widower Sues Over Wife’s Death at Brandon Hospital, St. Petersburg Times, December 30, 2009

Lawsuit Charges Hospital with Negligence, My Fox Tampa Bay, December 30, 3009

Related Web Resources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Research Report Series- Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Second Safety Warming on Fentanyl Skin Patch