prescription pillsMost people assume that when they go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, the medication provided to them by the pharmacist is the same medication that their doctor prescribed. However, the reality is that each year there are thousands of reported pharmacy errors. Many of these errors result in a patient being provided the wrong drug, while others involve the pharmacist providing patients with the wrong dose or the incorrect instructions. If you believe you were injured as a result of receiving the wrong prescription medication or dosage, contact a Maryland pharmacy error attorney.

Pharmacists have a duty to ensure that the prescriptions they fill are accurate. Often, retail pharmacies are extremely busy and rely on a pharmacist technician to fill a prescription, which is then later checked by the pharmacist prior to being provided to a patient. However, during these busy times, both pharmacists and technicians are often handling multiple prescriptions and are more likely to make an error.

While the ultimate duty to ensure a patient is not given the wrong medication rests with the pharmacist, there are certain precautions patients can take to decrease the chance that they will be sent home with the wrong medication. A recent news article discusses a few of these steps, including:

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funeralMaryland personal injury plaintiffs can bring failure-to-warn claims if a manufacturer fails to adequately warn consumers of a product’s risks. In one recent case against drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, a patient alleged that the manufacturer failed to warn consumers of its association with suicide for certain patients.

The Facts of the Case

A doctor prescribed a patient Paxil, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to treat the patient’s depression and anxiety. However, his prescription was filled with the generic version of Paxil, paroxetine. A few days later, the patient committed suicide and paroxetine was found in his system. The patient’s wife sued GSK, alleging that the manufacturer negligently failed to warn patients that paroxetine was associated with suicides in patients older than 24, and that her husband (who was 57) died as a result.

Generic drug manufacturers are required to use a label approved  by the brand-name manufacturer and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and only the brand-name manufacturer can obtain FDA approval to change the label. In this case, the brand-name manufacturer of Paxil, GSK, created the its label, and the generic drug manufacturers were required to use the same label. Labels for paroxetine warned that it was associated with suicide in patients under 24, but did not warn about an association with suicide in older patients.

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pharmacyLast week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the manufacturer of a popular blood-pressure medication would be recalling thousands of bottles of the medication after what appears to have been a medication mix-up. According to one news source covering the recall, Accord Healthcare announced that it would be recalling one lot of its Hydrochlorothiazide tablets in the 12.5mg dosage.

The recall was announced after a pharmacist at a local drugstore discovered that a bottle marked as containing the 12.5mg tablets of Hydrochlorothiazide tablets actually contained another medication. None of the medication was provided to patients, and the manufacturer’s initial investigation into the error did not cause them to believe that any other lots suffered from a similar error. However, out of precaution, the manufacturer recalled the entire lot that contained the bottle with the wrong medication.

The Hydrochlorothiazide tablets are round orange pills that have the letter “H” on one side, and the number “1” on the other side.

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medical assessmentMedical errors routinely rate among of the most frequent causes of preventable death in the United States. One of the more common types of medical errors are pharmacy misfills or prescription errors. These errors occur when a pharmacist provides a patient with the wrong medication, wrong dose, or wrong instructions.

According to one industry news source, pharmacy errors are on the rise. Evidently, the National Pharmacy Association released its most recent data which showed a 64% increase in pharmacy errors between April and June of this year. The data showed that nearly half of all of the reported pharmacy errors were caused by “workload and time pressures.”

The types of errors reported varied, but the following were some of the more common error types:

  • providing the wrong medication to the patient based on medication with similar sounding or looking names;
  • mixing up patients’ names and addresses; and
  • attaching the wrong information slip to a patient’s prescription.

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prescription instructionsWhile there are many causes of Maryland pharmacy errors, one of the most frequently reported errors involves a patient receiving the wrong medication from their pharmacist. In many cases, the pharmacist provides a patient with a drug that has a name similar to the drug which they were prescribed.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has coined the term look-alike sound-alike (LASA) drug to describe a medication that is either spelled or pronounced similar to other medications. It is estimated that up to 35% of all medication errors involve LASA medications. The IMSP has also published a list of the most common LASA drugs.

For example, common LASA drugs include:

  • hydromorphone and morphine
  • vinblastine and vincristine
  • tramadol and trazodone

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When most people hear that a pharmacy error has been made, they picture a busy pharmacist who provided one patient with another’s medication after transposing a few letters in a patient’s last name. And with thousands of medications in the average pharmacy, there certainly are a significant number of Maryland pharmacy errors involving a pharmacist providing a patient with the wrong medication altogether. However, this is only one type of pharmacy error.Legal News Gavel

Many pharmacy errors involve a patient receiving the correct medication, but the wrong dosage. This can either occur when a pharmacist provides the patient with the wrong strength of medication or when the instructions provided to the patient are incorrect. In either event, a patient can suffer serious injuries by taking too much (or too little) of a prescribed medication. Children are especially susceptible to this type of error, since medication tends to affect them more, given their size and weight.

Parents are encouraged to double-check their children’s prescriptions for any errors at the pharmacy. In addition, parents should consult with pharmacy staff, letting them know that the medication is for a child.

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Plaintiffs have to be careful when it comes to filing a Maryland pharmacy error claim. A recent case shows how asserting the wrong claim in a case can result in the case’s dismissal.

In that case, the plaintiff brought a claim against a drug manufacturer for allegedly causing her husband’s death due to the manufacturer’s failure to provide a medication guide with her husband’s prescription. The manufacturer made a generic form of amiodarone hydrochloride, a drug used for certain life-threatening heartbeat irregularities. As a generic drug, it is required to have the same labeling as its approved brand-name counterpart. One of the labeling requirements is making medication guides available for distribution to each patient who is prescribed the drug. The medication guides explain the approved uses of the drug and also explain the drug’s side effects “in nontechnical, understandable language.” In amiodarone’s medication guide, it states that the drug should be used only to treat “life-threatening heartbeat problems.”Legal News Gavel

The plaintiff’s husband died after taking amiodarone to treat his non-life threatening atrial fibrillation. The plaintiff alleged that her husband died because he had been taking amiodarone, which he had been prescribed. The manufacturer allegedly failed to provide the medication guide for distribution, which her husband did not receive when he filled his prescriptions in May and June 2015. The plaintiff claimed that her husband was not aware that only those with life-threatening heartbeat irregularities should take the drug, due to its serious side effects. She argued that the manufacturer failed to warn her husband by failing to provide the medication guide, as required under federal law.

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Legal News GavelRecently, a state appellate court issued a very interesting and important opinion in a pharmacy error case discussing a pharmacist’s duty to inform a prescribing physician when a patient attempts to fill a prescription that required pre-authorization from the patient’s insurance company. Ultimately, the court held that pharmacies have a limited duty to notify both the patient as well as the prescribing physician each time a patient attempts to fill a prescription requiring pre-authorization.

The Facts of the Case

When the plaintiff was 18 years old, she suffered her first seizure. She was taken to the hospital and given a dose of Topamax, an antiepileptic medication. After discharge, the plaintiff saw a neurologist who recommended she continue taking Topamax and wrote her a prescription.

The plaintiff filled the prescription without incident until her 19th birthday. However, when she went to fill the prescription after turning 19, the pharmacist informed her that her insurance company required pre-authorization for Topamax prescriptions for patients over 18 years of age. The pharmacist told the plaintiff that they would follow up with her physician in order to obtain the required pre-authorization. Although not required to do so by law, the pharmacy routinely sent a fax to prescribing physicians offices when a patient tried to fill a medication that required a pre-authorization.

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Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals, much like doctors or nurses. And under the United States’ medical system, pharmacists have a very important role to play in providing medical care to patients. Indeed, patients not only rely on pharmacists to be accurate, but also to be diligent in looking out for potential adverse drug interactions that a physician may have missed.

MedicineLike other medical professionals, pharmacists have a duty to those whom they serve. While the nuances of a pharmacist’s duty to her patients is exceedingly complex; at its most basic level it requires pharmacists to accurately fill all patient prescriptions and provide meaningful medication consultations when requested or required. However, each year there are thousands of medication errors, many of which result in serious harm to the patient.

The duty pharmacists owe to their patients evolves over time as scientific research uncovers new best practices and technology developments allow for more accurate record-keeping and prescription dispensing. According to a recent industry news source, all pharmacists should be taking the following steps to avoid making preventable errors:

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Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration announced a voluntary recall of several lots of an increasingly popular drug that is designed to combat the effect of an opioid overdose. According to a recent news report discussing the voluntary recall, two specific lots of the drug Naloxone have been recalled based on the “potential presence of embedded and loose particulate matter on the syringe plunger.”

SyringeHospira, the company that manufactures the drug, moved forward with the recall after it discovered that users may experience certain side effects if they inject the affected medication. These side effects include local irritation, an allergic reaction, inflammation of a vein, restriction of blood supply to healthy tissue, pulmonary embolism, and pulmonary infarction.

The FDA explains that users should be sure to check the medication before injecting it. Specifically, users should look for discoloration or particulate matter. The drug’s manufacturer explained that the recalled medication was provided to medical professionals and law enforcement. The company has stressed that none of the recalled lots were distributed to individual patients.

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