Every day, many Maryland residents visit doctors for various reasons, ranging from mild illnesses or slight pain to severe sickness or life-threatening medical conditions. No matter the reason, Maryland patients expect that they can trust their doctors to give them high-quality care. Doctors are highly trained and highly educated precisely because of the important nature of their jobs, and so Maryland residents understandably rely on them when something is wrong. But doctors sometimes make mistakes, and unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes can cause severe injury or illness for Maryland patients. One of the most common mistakes doctors make is also one of the hardest for patients to catch before it’s too late—a mistake in the prescription that causes a pharmacy error.

Pharmacy errors can occur at any time between when the prescription is written and when it is taken by the patient. Sometimes the errors are caused by pharmacists filling a correctly written prescription. Other times, however, the doctors themselves make the mistakes while writing out the prescription, usually because they are distracted by something when writing it out. There are several different types of potential mistakes. Doctors may prescribe the wrong drug, for example, or not remember that the drug they are prescribing has adverse side effects when taken with another drug the patient is on. They may also write the wrong dosage, causing a patient to receive either too little or too much of the medication. Doctors may even forget what allergies their patient has and prescribe them a drug that leads to a severe allergic reaction. All of these may occur without a patient even realizing until it’s too late.

If a patient does fall ill or get injured due to a doctor’s negligent error in writing a prescription, Maryland state law allows them to file a personal injury lawsuit. Many people might balk at the idea of suing their doctor, but sometimes it is necessary for a patient to do so to avoid going into financial ruin because of someone else’s mistake. Maryland pharmacy errors can become costly. Depending on the situation, patients can rack up thousands in debt, even hundreds of thousands, due to medical expenses and lost wages. Sometimes pharmacy errors can even be so severe that a patient’s life will be permanently affected. Because the stakes are so high, Maryland law allows patients to hold doctors liable and recover for their losses. The process may seem overwhelming and confusing, but most Maryland pharmacy error victims do not go through it alone—instead, they choose to work with an experienced personal injury attorney who can handle the bulk of the case for them.

When Maryland residents become sick or injured and need to take medication, they generally trust their medical professionals and pharmacists to give them the right medication, dosage, and instructions. However, as past victims of Maryland pharmacy errors can tell you, that unfortunately does not always happen. Doctors, medical personnel, and pharmacists are human, and will occasionally make mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes can be deadly.

For example, take a recent error where a 55-year-old man was given ten times the amount of pain relief medication than he should have been, tragically causing him to pass away. The victim—a painter and decorator—had been taking pethidine for some time to deal with back pain from a prior incident. However, he was then switched to methadone, as there was a shortage of pethidine. When calculating how much methadone to give the man, the pharmacist made a fatal error—he believed that the methadone was of the equivalent strength to pethidine. However, 5mg of methadone is actually the equivalent of 50mg of pethidine. Because the pharmacist did not double-check, and did not know this, he gave the victim ten times the amount of medication he should have.

Just a few days after taking this medication, the victim was found dead in his home by his son. A post mortem report found that he died in part due to methadone toxicity. After his death, his daughter also discovered a methadone leaflet, which warned patients not to take methadone if they had a lung condition—which her father had. This also raised questions as to why he was prescribed methadone in the first place.

If you live in Maryland and a medication you are or were taking has been recalled, what you should do depends on the specifics of the recall. The first thing to do is to determine what to do to keep you safe and healthy. The recall generally will include guidance on what consumers should do with the impacted product and what steps to take. That means that in some cases, consumers may need to stop taking the impacted drug immediately, but in others, continuing to take a drug may be the safest course of action for the short-term. Patients should also speak with their healthcare provider to determine if there are any alternative medications they could take. After addressing that concern, the next step is to consider any legal recourse you can seek through a Maryland product liability or negligence claim.

When a company issues a recall, the FDA then classifies the recall and oversees the company’s strategy for recalling the drug. The most serious class of recall is a class I recall. Those are recalls in which the product could cause serious harm or death. The next serious is a class II recall, which is for products that pose a notable risk and threat. The lowest level recall is a class III recall, which is for products that violate the agency’s labeling or manufacturing laws but are not likely to cause adverse health consequences.

If a Maryland resident has taken a recalled drug, the patient may be able to sue the drug manufacturer to recover damages. However, it is not enough to show that the patient took the drug. The patient must also show that they suffered injuries as a result.

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the health care system. High rates of infection and death have sent thousands of Americans to hospitals and health care clinics, most of which were already busy treating patients before the pandemic. The country’s medical providers and health care workers are working hard every single day to try and help people and combat the virus, but the sheer amount of work and stress they are under may take a serious toll on their mental health and their ability to perform the job effectively. Recently, a hospital nurse spoke to the Institute for Safe Medical Practices (ISMP) about the impact that COVID-19 is having, and what he said has implications for how the pandemic may increase Maryland pharmacy errors.

According to an article detailing his experiences and report, medication errors have been increasing in his hospital. Because nurses are working long hours with critically ill patients in a stressful, hectic, and overwhelming work environment, medication errors are more common. However, it is likely that this pattern is not isolated to just hospitals. The entire health care system is overwhelmed right now that it is likely that the rise of medication errors is also occurring in other settings, including pharmacies.

Pharmaceutical errors can be just as dangerous as errors occurring in hospitals. Many Maryland residents rely on their local pharmacy for their medications, but when pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are stressed out and overwhelmed they may make significant errors, such as providing the wrong dosage of a medication, or even the wrong medication altogether. With the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacies may be overwhelmed by more calls from patients than usual, or requests for more prescriptions as individuals stock up. They may also be short-staffed if a pharmacist or technician gets sick or needs to stay home to take care of a family member. All of this can negatively affect Maryland residents, who rely on pharmacists to fill their prescriptions correctly and likely to not expect to be injured from taking prescribed medicine.

The COVID-19 pandemic had changed the lives of almost every American in too many ways to count. Among those who have been the most impacted by the pandemic are medical workers, including pharmacists. Pharmacies have seen surges in volume as more people are more frequently visiting doctors and obtaining prescriptions for all types of health conditions. As the demand on pharmacists increases, so does the risk of a Maryland pharmacy error.

The Institute of Safe Medication Practices has released a list of tips that pharmacists should follow to decrease the risk of error during these challenging times. The tips are broken down into three categories:

Preventing Pharmacy Errors

When it comes to preventing Maryland medication errors, the Institute of Safe Medication Practices recommends pharmacists take the following steps:

  • Keep certain IV infusions standardized to a single concentration or dose, when possible.
  • Use visually identifiable premixed solutions for common infusions.
  • When dispensing a nonstandard concentration or a paralyzing agent, be sure to clearly label these infusions.
  • Implement frequent safety meetings and create processes for pharmacy members to double-check solutions before administering infusions.

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Many people will admit that they occasionally get distracted while at work. It’s human nature to get distracted occasionally, and even to occasionally make mistakes. However, in some lines of work, the costs of distractions and mistakes are much higher than others, and employees need to be particularly careful to ensure they are not harming others. This is true, for instance, in pharmacies. Maryland pharmacy errors cause harm and injuries to patients every year. Part of the reason is that pharmacists and pharmacies have recently been expected to handle more and more tasks faster and faster, making it easy for mistakes to occur and not get caught until it is too late.

Recently, an industry news source published a piece discussing the importance of minimizing distractions whilst working in a pharmacy. The post shed light on the fast-paced pharmacy work environment, and how often pharmacists are interrupted while doing important tasks, like filling prescriptions, checking dosages and instructions, and communicating with patients.

According to the post, a recent study found that those working in pharmacies were interrupted an average of seven to thirteen times each hour. The interruptions could be categorized into five major categories: (1) patients walking up to the counter or calling in refills; (2) technicians interrupting pharmacists, usually for assistance on something they are unauthorized to do; (3) pharmacists self-initiated distractions, such as calling a prescriber’s office or initiating a non-work conversation; (4) technological distractions, such as a phone ringing or an announcement over the store’s loudspeaker; and (5) other pharmacists having questions.

COVID-19 tests are now available for free at many Maryland pharmacies throughout the state. Maryland pharmacies conducting COVID-19 testing include CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart, as well as some local independent pharmacies. However, the use of testing at these pharmacies raises questions about adequate staffing, particularly after such issues were raised prior to the pandemic.

According to a recent news source, Walgreens Pharmacy reported a coding error that resulted in incorrect COVID-19 testing data. The error meant that around 59,000 COVID-19 test results would be added to the state’s statistics that were not previously reported. It was not clear how many of those tests were positive and what brought about the error. According to the Department of State Health Services, there were previous issues with reporting that have caused additional issues with the state’s statistics. The state said that additional data was being reported from July when a private testing lab did not correctly report about 250,000 positive tests. The state was trying to separate the data and send the information to the appropriate county. The state reported a delay in reporting due to the errors.

The report of the pharmacy error comes just a month after CVS was fined for medication errors and under staffing. The Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy fined the company last month after a report earlier this year that the company understaffed its pharmacies, putting patients at risk. The state pharmacy board subsequently launched an investigation and imposed $125,000 in fines. The COVID-19 testing being carried out by the pharmacies may be further burdening pharmacies and overworked pharmacists, potentially leading to medication errors and putting patients at greater risk.

Testing for COVID-19 has ramped up in recent months. While initially, tests were hard to come by, today most Maryland pharmacies are conducting tests, making them widely available. However, the surge in testing has resulted in a corresponding increase in the number of experts who are concerned that tests are providing people with false-negative results. Given the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, false negatives have the potential to cause a resurgence in the virus, putting everyone at risk.

According to a recent news report, 12 people who were tested at a Walgreen’s pharmacy were initially told that they were negative for COVID-19, only to learn later that was not the case. Evidently, the erroneous results came out of Delaware, where the local government had an agreement with Walgreen’s. In all, Walgreen’s collected over 2,900 samples at drive-up testing sites.

The tests appeared to be accurate, and the problem was not with the reliability of the test. In fact, the state Department of Health reviewed each of the Walgreen’s tests for accuracy and confirmed that “no patients who tested negative were given incorrect results.” However, 12 patients were called and told that they tested negative when, in fact, they had tested positive. The report notes that the error did not occur at the local Walgreen’s stores, implying that the lab may have been responsible for the errors.

Maryland residents may rush to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Yet, as companies race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, questions about the risks of a vaccine have been raised. All vaccines carry some risk for residents of a Maryland medication error, and according to a recent news report, many experts have speculated on the heightened risks of a COVID-19 vaccine in light of a condensed development timeline.

Experts in the public health field worry that a condensed timeline for developing and testing the vaccine might mean that it is approved without proper data and analysis. Some of those fears appear to have merit. One vaccine testing candidate did not test in animals. Another experimental vaccine was approved for China’s military before trials were even completed. A significant number of people in one vaccine trial experienced a “medically significant” adverse event. Creating a vaccine in the span of a year is “unprecedented,” according to one expert working to develop a new vaccine platform.

Some experts worry that the vaccine will not be safe or effective. A vaccine might produce unintended side effects, for example. One adverse event that had been seen with vaccines for other viruses is an antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). An ADE is an immune reaction to the vaccine that makes subsequent exposure to the virus more dangerous by generating antibodies that encourage the virus to replicate instead of neutralizing it. One scientist said that the rare side effects of a vaccine likely will not be discovered until after the vaccine is approved.

In this blog, we write a lot about Maryland pharmacy errors and the harms that can result from them. A lot of the time, Maryland pharmacy errors might not even be caught right away, and when they are, the individual affected may just decide to go deal with it individually with the pharmacy. Even if they decide to file a personal injury lawsuit due to the injuries they suffered, the case might not make the news or raise public awareness because the plaintiff is just focused on receiving compensation for their own individual injuries. Because of this, it is rare that there are public discussions about the errors that pharmacies make, and even rarer still that large retail pharmacy chains face consequences.

However, according to a recent news report, state regulators cited and fined CVS—the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain—for conditions found at four of its pharmacies, including inadequate staffing and prescription filling errors. CVS was fined $125,000, a relatively small amount for the multi-billion dollar company. The fine, however, validated concerns that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have about the risks of understaffing and pharmacy errors.

One of the errors found at a CVS pharmacy in the past year occurred when a developmentally disabled teenager received only one-fourth of his prescribed dose of an anti-convulsant medication. He ended up taking this incorrect dose for 18 days, during which he had uncontrollable and violent seizures. In fact, the seizures were so bad that he fell down and hit his head.

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