Medication errors are believed to be one of the leading causes of death across the United States. Indeed, there have been countless studies focusing on the causes of pharmacy errors and the best ways to reduce them. However, the fact remains that medication errors result in over 3.5 million hospitalizations each year, with over a million of those to the emergency room.

The exact number of patients harmed by Maryland pharmacy errors is difficult to determine. In part, this is due to the lax reporting requirements. In Maryland, as is common across the United States, pharmacists are not required to report most of their errors, and do so only voluntarily.

According to a recent investigative report, pharmacy errors are routinely swept under the rug and kept out of the public eye. The report recounts the case of a man who died after ingesting the wrong medication that he obtained from his local pharmacy. The man’s autopsy report confirmed that the pills on the bottle did not match those which he was prescribed. However, pharmacist “neither admitted or denied” the allegations, and was ultimately fined $3,000.

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Recently, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) issued a report asking that Maryland pharmacists, as well as pharmacists across the country, take additional precautions in the wake of a fatal 2017 pharmacy error. The ISMP is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the number of pharmacy errors across the United States. In furtherance of that goal, the ISMP operates a voluntary error-reporting system. The ISMP then uses this data to work with pharmaceutical companies to eliminate the root causes of common errors such as similarly named drugs, confusing packaging, and dangerous device design.

The Error

According to the ISMP report, a patient was admitted into the ICU with a headache and vision loss. An MRI was conducted, and it was determined that the patient had a hematoma of the brain. The patient was transferred, and a full-body scan was ordered. While the radiologist was explaining the procedure to the patient, the patient indicated she had claustrophobia. The radiologist requested the patient be given a dose of Versed to help with her claustrophobia.

Evidently, the patient’s primary nurse requested that a radiology nurse provide the patient with the medication. The radiology nurse declined, stating that the patient would need to be monitored after administration of the drug. The primary nurse indicated she would send another nurse to the radiology department to monitor the patient after she was given the medication.

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A significant number of Maryland prescription drug injuries are caused by opioid use and abuse. Over the last decade, the number of deaths that were related to opioid medications has dramatically increased from about 35,000 in 2007 to over 70,000 in 2017. In an effort to curb these stark statistics, experts began to consider why opioid abuse has become more prevalent over the past few years and what new law or policies could help decrease opioid abuse.

One idea that is starting to gain traction is the concept of partial-fill prescriptions. Under a partial-fill prescription policy, patients who are prescribed certain high-risk opioid medications are given only a few days’ worth of medication at a time. The idea behind the policy is that if patients are given fewer pills they will be less likely to take more than they need. Additionally, proponents of a partial-fill policy hope that it would reduce the number of people who sell some or all of their medication.

According to a local news report, Tennessee recently enacted a partial-fill policy under which patients would only be provided some of their medication on their first visit to the pharmacy. Patients could obtain the rest of their medication, if needed, by returning to the pharmacy once they run out of medication. Under the new policy, pharmacies are responsible for inputting patient data into a state-wide database.

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Maryland personal injury plaintiffs risk having their cases dismissed if they fail to file their claims within the applicable statute of limitations. In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court dismissed the pharmaceutical claim for failing to timely file a claim.

The plaintiff had filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, alleging that they were liable for his gambling and other losses because he suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder as a result of taking Mirapex. Mirapex is an FDA-approved medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease, which the plaintiff began taking in 2006 to treat his Parkinson’s disease. After taking it for two years, he told his doctor that he was experiencing increased compulsive behaviors, including gambling. His doctor told him there was a possible association between Mirapex and compulsive behaviors. The plaintiff raised the issue with his doctor several months later. The plaintiff’s family eventually learned of substantial debts resulting from his gambling, at which point the doctor told the plaintiff not to take Mirapex anymore, advising him to use other therapeutic options instead.

When the plaintiff filed the lawsuit against the drug’s manufacturers, the companies claimed that the lawsuit was time-barred, arguing that the plaintiff filed the case after the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims under state law. The plaintiff did not dispute that he knew or should have known that he had been wronged by the defendant by April 23, 2008, after discussing the effects of Mirapex with his doctor on more than one occasion. However, he did not file the claim until December 2010. The plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations was tolled until July 2010, because he continued taking Mirapex until that time, and because “continuing violations” are not time-barred. Under that state’s law, a personal injury claim must be filed within two years. However, under what it calls the “continuing accrual” principle, in continuing or recurring liability cases, “a cause of action accrues each time a wrongful act occurs,” which means that the statute of limitations begins again for that act.

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Pharmacy errors can be the result of any number of failures in the medication delivery system. More often than not, however, Maryland pharmacy errors are the result of human error. One of the most commonly cited causes of prescription drug errors is when a pharmacist provides a patient with a medication that has a similar name to the medication the patient was prescribed. In the pharmacy industry, these medications are referred to as look-alike sound-alike (LASA) drugs

According to the Food and Drug Administration, LASA medications are involved in about 41% of all fatal pharmacy errors. An example of two medications that are commonly mixed up and have been placed on the list of LASA medications are Aricept (a drug designed for Alzheimer’s disease), Azilect (an anti-depressant used to treat Parkinson’s disease), and Aciphex (a prescription used to treat acid reflux and stomach ulcers).

Of course, pharmacists have a duty to ensure that they are providing their patients with the correct medication in the right dose. Needless to say, when a pharmacist fails to fulfill that duty, a patient can be exposed to serious risks. In many cases, the symptoms of a pharmacy error are immediately evident; however, that it is not always the case. In some situations, it may take days, months, or even years to discover the extent of the harm caused by an error.

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Companies that manufacture and market prescription medication are under the same duty that all manufacturers are under to make sure that their product is safe. Of course, some medications, especially prescription medications, present the risk of serious adverse side effects, even when the drug is taken according to a physician’s instructions. Thus, a manufacturer must clear about the potential side effects that a medication could cause when marketing the drug. A failure to clearly warn patients about a known risk may result in the drug manufacturer being liable in a Maryland product liability case.

While a drug manufacturer may be able to avoid liability by warning of a drug’s dangerous side effects, there is no excuse for medication that is contaminated during the manufacturing process. Late last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the latest in a series of recalls affecting blood-pressure medication. According to the FDA, two lots of Losartan potassium tablets contain an ingredient that was discovered to contain an unexpected impurity called N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA). The FDA notes that NDEA “is a substance that occurs naturally in certain foods, drinking water, air pollution” however, it is also a known carcinogenic in animals and a suspected carcinogenic in humans according to its classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Losartan potassium tablets are used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) as well as neuropathy (nerve pain) in patients who have Type II diabetes. The FDA recommends that patients who are currently taking Losartan continue to take the medication, as the risks involved with suddenly stopping the drug without an alternative treatment are high. The FDA advised patients taking Losartan to contact their pharmacist or physician to discuss alternatives to Losartan, at least until the manufacturing problem has been resolved.

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In a Maryland “failure to warn” claim, a plaintiff may bring a claim against a defendant manufacturer for failing to warn of the risks associated with a product. A product must adequately warn consumers of the dangers and risks in using the product, unless those dangers are a matter of common knowledge or are so obvious that they do not require a warning. For example, a drug manufacturer could be liable for the side effects of a drug if it failed to adequately disclose the risks of the drug, failed to disclose an unreasonably dangerous condition, or failed to instruct consumers on the correct use of the drug.

Courts will consider the knowledge and experience of consumers in determining whether a person can reasonably be expected to understand the use and risks of a product. Warnings and disclosures must be clear, direct, and easy to understand. Instructions and disclosures can be inadequate if they are ambiguous or do not contain enough information about how to safely use the product or the risks of improper use. A plaintiff with a successful failure to warn case can potentially garner a range of compensatory damages, including medical bills, the costs of future treatment, out-of-pocket expenses, loss of income, mental anguish, and pain and suffering.

FDA Issues Safety Announcement for Medication for Leukemia Patients

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a safety announcement, stating that some leukemia patients receiving the medication Idhifa are showing signs and symptoms of the syndrome that are not being recognized. Idhifa’s Medication Guide already has a warning about differentiation syndrome, but despite this, the FDA has become aware of cases of the syndrome that not being recognized, with patients not obtaining the proper treatment. Idhifa is used to treat patients with acute myeloid leukemia, and works by blocking enzymes that promote an abnormal blood cell growth. However, it can cause differentiation syndrome, which can be life-threatening if not treated quickly.

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Medication errors are estimated to affect over 7 million people per year. While many of these errors do not result in patient hospitalization or even patient injury, the fact is that medication errors are a very real threat and patients should double-check all prescriptions for errors before taking any medication. If you have questions about possible errors with your medication, contact a Maryland pharmacy error attorney.

Most medication errors are the result of a pharmacist – either in a retail seating or in a hospital – improperly filling a patient’s prescription. However, there are other less common types of errors that patients should be aware of. For example, each year many mistakes are the result of a pharmacist’s incorrect advice.

Pharmacists’ primary role is to safely fill all prescriptions and counsel patients on their medications. However, pharmacists are also there to answer a patient’s questions regarding over-the-counter medications. Such questions are commonly based on an over-the-counter medication’s potential interactions with prescribed medication that may not have been filled at the pharmacy. Other errors involve incorrect advice regarding medication that is available in varying strengths, some of which may be available over-the-counter.

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Medical errors rate among the top causes of death in the United States each year. Among the main contributors to this category are prescription errors and other medication errors. While the exact number of pharmacy errors is not known due to lax reporting requirements, it is estimated that there are approximately 7 million errors per year. Of course, not all of these errors will result in harm to a patient, but the error-rate still presents major concerns. If you are concerned that a medication error may have caused your injury, reach out to a Maryland pharmacy error attorney.

For years, researchers have been looking at how the increasing number of pharmacy errors can be reduced. Many studies consider the increased use of technology a step in the right direction, due to the fact that humans are error-prone. According to a recent study, older people – especially those in hospitals – are the most likely to be the victim of a pharmacy error.

According to the report detailing the results of the study, the study looked at medication errors occurring between 2007 and 2016. The researchers reported over 517,000 errors in the two areas they studied, with almost 230 of these errors resulting in a patient’s death. Approximately half of the victims of pharmacy errors were over the age of 75. In addition, about 66% of the errors occurred in the hospital setting. This may be attributed to the fact that there is often a sense of urgency in hospitals that is not present in retail pharmacies.

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Each year, there are estimated to be approximately 1.5 million pharmacy errors across the United States. Of those, about half are later determined to have been preventable. While these figures may seem shocking, the reality is that the actual number of pharmacy errors may be much higher given lax pharmacy reporting requirements.

In most states, a discretionary reporting system is used. In general, even when mandatory reporting is implemented, a pharmacist is not required to report an error unless it results in patient harm. However, in many cases, a patient will not immediately show symptoms of a medication error. Thus, pharmacy errors that do not result in immediate serious harm or are not delivered to a patient do not need to be reported. If you have questions that relate to potential pharmacy negligence, contact a Maryland medication error attorney.

Mother Pushes for Stricter Reporting Requirements

Back in 2016, a young boy in Canada died in his sleep after his mother was given the wrong medication when she went to refill her son’s prescription. According to a recent news report covering the tragic accident, the boy suffered from parasomnia, which caused the boy to wake up screaming and crying in the middle of the night. The boy’s physician prescribed tryptophan, and the boy had taken the drug for about a year.

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