Earlier this month, the mother of a four-year-old epileptic girl went to fill her daughter’s prescription and was given the medication. According to a local news source covering the incident, the young girl takes two prescriptions for her condition, one of which is Clobazam and anti-epileptic. The girl’s doctor prescribed she take 10 mg of medication that contains five ml of the active drug. However, the pharmacy provided the girl’s mother with a medication that only contains 2.5 ml per 10 mg dose. The result was that the girl was only getting half of her required medication.

Cough SyrupTen days after the prescription was picked up, the girl had her first seizure. Since then, she has been unable to sleep through the night and has had several subsequent seizures. The mother told reporters that the pharmacy not only provided the wrong medication but also placed their own label on the manufacturer’s label, making the error harder to detect. It was not until a doctor at the hospital asked to see the bottle that the error was discovered.

In an interview with reporters, the girl’s mother explained that she “can forgive the initial mistake, but everything has to be seconded and signed off, and I can’t forgive whoever seconded it as they clearly didn’t do their job.”

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Prescriptions errors can occur in a number of ways. Perhaps the most commonly seen prescription error, however, is when a pharmacist provides one patient’s properly filled prescription to another patient. The patient who receives the incorrect medication risks having an adverse reaction to the unprescribed pills and also risks an exacerbation of their current condition, due to not receiving their prescribed medication.

Blister PackPrescription errors can often be prevented by a patient’s vigilance. However, the burden of ensuring the safe dispensing of medication should not lie with the patient. Indeed, the law allows for patients who have been injured as a result of a pharmacist’s mistake to seek compensation for their injuries through a personal injury lawsuit.

Many lawsuits brought against allegedly negligent pharmacists are defended in a similar manner. Specifically, the pharmacist will argue that the patient’s injuries were not caused by the pharmacist’s mistake. Since the burden rests with the patient to prove their case, this tactic can work for many pharmacists. However, an experienced personal injury attorney can assist pharmacy error victims by seeking out reliable and credible medical experts to explain to the judge or jury whether the ingestion of a foreign medication may have caused a new illness or disease or exacerbated an existing one.

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In October of last year, the parents of a young boy who suffers from a serious kidney condition discovered that the medication they had been giving their son on a daily basis was not the correct medication that had been prescribed by the boy’s doctor. According to a recent article discussing the family’s fight for justice, the pharmacy where the alleged error occurred is denying liability for the mistake, claiming that the prescription was properly filled.

White PillsAccording the article, the seven-month old boy was diagnosed with a serious kidney disorder at birth. Since then, he has had to undergo two surgeries and is required to take daily medication. After his second surgery, his mother filled her son’s prescription at a local pharmacy and gave her son the medication as directed.

When the mother went to the same pharmacy to refill the prescription, she noticed that the medication she was provided looked different from what she had been giving her son for the past month. Thinking that the pharmacist made an error in filling the refill, the mother brought the pills back to the pharmacy. However, the pharmacist told her that the refill was filled correctly, meaning that the initial prescription may not have been correct.

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Prescription medications are often dangerous drugs that are subject to government regulation, due to the potential harm they can cause when taken in a manner inconsistent with their therapeutic use. While the majority of pharmacy errors do not result in serious patient injuries, the reality is that there are a significant number of errors each year that do result in serious injuries or death. Often, the pharmacists responsible for these errors are subject to professional sanctions as a result of the error. However, these sanctions often seem insignificant compared to the injury or loss suffered by the victims of pharmacists’ mistakes.

Assorted PillsLast year, an elderly woman died as a result of taking five times the prescribed dose of an immuno-suppressant medication. According to a local news report covering the tragic death, the woman was provided the medication by a local pharmacy. Evidently, the prescription was initially incorrectly filled by a new technician. The supervising pharmacist caught the error and directed the technician to fix it. However, the technician failed to correct the mistake, and the pharmacist never double-checked the technician’s work.

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The results of a recently published study emphasize the crucial role that registered nurses (RNs) play in maintaining accuracy in dispensing medications to patients receiving inpatient services at a hospital. The recently performed study discusses the most common medications that are subject to error, as well as the rates of harm to patients that occur as a result of errors made by RNs. Costly errors appear to encourage doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and the medical industry as a whole to issue guidelines in the hope of preventing errors. However, whatever harm these errors cause to the medical professionals who make them, the harm caused to innocent patients is significantly worse.

Blood Pressure CuffThe Study Confirms the High Rates of Inpatient Errors Committed by RNs

An article in an industry news source (login required) discusses the recent study mentioned above. The study found that the majority of medication errors occurred in the medical-surgical units of the hospitals where they were conducted, followed by the intensive care units and intermediate care units.

Anticoagulant drugs were the most common type of medication to be associated with a medication error, and 10% of the total errors ultimately resulted in harm to a patient. Although 10% sounds like a low number, that still adds up to hundreds of thousands of patients each year who receive some type of medication error and thousands who suffer harm as a result.

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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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