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Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion addressing issues that frequently occur in Maryland pharmacy error lawsuits. The lawsuit stemmed from the tragic death of a woman who received the wrong medication from her pharmacy. Evidently, the woman was treated at a hospital for fluid buildup in her lungs. At discharge, a nurse called the woman’s pharmacy, spoke to a pharmacy technician, and ordered a prescription for a diuretic. However, the technician made several errors when inputting the patient’s information, including wrong identifying information, incorrect spelling of the nurse’s name, and misspelling of several medications. However, the most egregious error was misreporting a medication and dosage. This error had severe consequences, as the patient died as a result of the incorrect medication.

The woman’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital and the pharmacy, alleging damages for negligence and requesting additional damages due to aggravating circumstances. The hospital settled their claims, and the lawsuit against the pharmacy proceeded to trial. The pharmacy moved to dismiss the aggravating circumstances portion of the lawsuit. The trial court granted the motion, and the jury awarded the family two million dollars in damages; however, the amount was significantly reduced because of the applicable damage caps. The family appealed the judge’s decision to dismiss the aggravating circumstances element of their claim.

Under Maryland law, pharmacy error plaintiffs can recover damages for the injuries they sustained because of the pharmacy’s negligence. Maryland law allows plaintiffs to recover compensatory damages to make them “whole again.” There are two main types of compensatory damages, special and general. Special damages are usually tangible costs that the plaintiff incurred because of the defendant’s negligence. Whereas, general damages are those that cannot be easily quantifiable, such as pain and suffering.

Pharmacy errors frequently occur in retail pharmacies in Maryland and throughout the country. These errors are recognized as common, and experts are always coming up with new ways to reduce them. However, Maryland pharmacy errors involving mail-order prescriptions are infrequently discussed and they raise the very same concerns as retail pharmacy errors. Without having to hand a prescription to a patient in person, a prescription can be addressed and mailed to the wrong person. In a recent federal appeals court decision, the court held that the pharmacy may still be held liable in the case of an elderly patient who failed to read the labels on the medication bottles before taking the medications.

In that case, the mother was mistakenly mailed prescription medications by a mail-order pharmacy contractor. A pharmacy put in an order for prescriptions to be sent to a customer, but the contractor mistakenly shipped the package to the plaintiff’s mother. She regularly received medications by mail, and the package at issue was similar to other packages she had received. The outside of the package had the mother’s name and address, but the bottles of medication listed the other patient’s name, doctor, and medication. The mother was elderly and “barely literate,” and did not read the labels before she took the pills.

After taking the pills, the mother started to experience hallucinations and confusion. She fell and fractured her leg a few days later. She was hospitalized for the fracture, and stayed in the hospital for almost a month. She was treated for other medical issues that arose during her stay, and she died about ten days after she was discharged from the hospital.

When a patient takes a prescription to the pharmacy to get it filled, they assume that the medication they are picking up is the one prescribed by their physician. However, that is not always the case. Indeed, each year, there are thousands of Maryland pharmacy errors, many of which result in severe injury or death.

Patients should be vigilant when it comes to double-checking all prescription medication for themselves, as well as for their loved ones. Pharmacy errors can occur in many ways; below is a partial list of some of the more common types of pharmacy errors.

Giving the patient the wrong medication: Perhaps the most common type of pharmacy error is when a pharmacist provides the patient with the wrong medication. These errors are very dangerous because the patient ends up taking a drug that they were not prescribed in an unknown dose. Additionally, the patient is not receiving the medication that they were prescribed, potentially worsening any existing condition.

One of the best ways to prevent Maryland pharmacy errors is to double-check all medications are accurate before taking them. Of course, children cannot check their own prescriptions, and rely on their parents to do so. However, most parents reasonably assume that the medicine given to them by a pharmacist is correct. A recent news report illustrates that it is not always the case.

According to a report by the New York Times, at least 17 children in Spain suffered a rare disorder called “werewolf syndrome,” also known as hypertrichosis, in which they grow hair all across their body. Evidently, the children were all prescribed medication to treat heartburn. However, the medicine was mislabeled, and the children’s parents were given a drug to treat hair loss. In all, 17 children were affected by the medication mix-up. Medical experts told reporters that the hair should start to fall out within three months of when the children stop taking the medication.

Apparently, several pharmacies were sent minoxidil, the main ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter hair-growth treatments, instead of omeprazole, which treats acid reflux. The medication originated from India; however, it is unclear where and how the error occurred. Spanish authorities are currently investigating the error, and trying to learn more about how it happened so future mistakes can be prevented.

Although the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not currently list medical errors as a cause of death, medical errors claim more than 250,000 lives per year. If listed among other causes of death, this figure would be the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. Not surprisingly, Maryland pharmacy errors are among the leading causes of death in the state.

While there are many types of medical errors, one of the more common types is a prescription error, or pharmacy error. A pharmacy error occurs when a patient brings a prescription to a pharmacy to get filled and the pharmacy provides the patient with something other than what they were supposed to receive. Most commonly, prescription errors involve one or more of the following errors:

  • The wrong medication;

The issuance and administration of medication can seem routine, but those procedures result in millions of errors, many of which are preventable. In the case of a medication error, a victim may be able to recover compensation if they are able to prove that the provider was negligent and that they suffered harm as a result.

In a medical negligence claim, plaintiff has to show that a defendant healthcare professional owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the healthcare professional failed to meet the standard of care in acting or failing to act in some way, that the plaintiff was injured because of that failure, and that the healthcare professional’s lack of care caused the plaintiff injuries. Medication error cases can be difficult to prove, particularly because the patient is often already sick and suffering from some disease or condition to begin with. Reliable expert testimony is often crucial in these cases.

Plaintiffs in medication error cases may be able to recover compensation for medical expenses, physical therapy expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and other damages.

It is estimated that pharmacy errors are responsible for between two to five percent of global hospital admissions. While determining the exact number of Maryland pharmacy error victims is difficult to determine due to the lax reporting requirements, experts believe that at least seven million people fall victim to medical errors each year. What’s more, the same experts believe that nearly a third of these errors are entirely preventable.

Of course, not all pharmacy errors result in patient harm. Most often, pharmacy errors that do result in harm to the patient involve at least one high-risk medication. However, the term “high-risk medication,” is somewhat controversial in that it implies that less attention needs to be paid to anything that is not a high-risk medication. Nonetheless, the term is commonly used to refer to medicines that are frequently involved in errors or present heightened risks of harm.

An industry news source recently published an article discussing what pharmacists can do to reduce the frequency of pharmacy errors. The article identifies several risk areas where pharmacists should pay extra attention.

The federal government classifies medication as prescription-only for a reason. Often, this is because these drugs can have severe interactions with other medicines or because they carry the risk of severe side effects when not taken under close supervision. Any patient who receives the wrong medication from a pharmacy is at risk of developing a serious illness or condition, but young patients are perhaps most at risk following a Maryland pharmacy error.

Earlier this month, a local news source reported on a pharmacy error involving an eight-year-old girl’s medication. Evidently, the girl suffered from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Hemochromatosis, which caused her to experience severe pain in her joints. The girl’s physician prescribed her a 50 mg dose of Celecoxib, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat acute pain related to arthritis and similar conditions.

The girl took the medication without incident for a few months; however, earlier this year, when her father went to pick up the prescription, he was provided 200 mg pills. Not noticing the error, the girl’s father gave his daughter the medication. Not long after taking the first dose, she told her father that her stomach was hurting. Given the pain his daughter regularly experiences, the girl’s father was surprised to hear the girl complaining of a stomach ache, so he took her to the doctor.

When most patients need prescription medication, their doctor can write a prescription that can be filled by the patient at any pharmacy. However, for patients with allergies or sensitivities, or for those who cannot take a standardized drug, compounding pharmacies create specific medications catered to a patient’s individual needs. While compounding pharmacies help a lot of patients, patients of these pharmacies are at an increased risk of falling victim to a Maryland pharmacy error.

Given the niche patient-base they serve, compounding pharmacies are necessary. However, there are some serious safety concerns with these pharmacies. For instance, the medications that compounding pharmacies create are not subject to FDA testing or approval. This lack of oversight increases the chance of a serious pharmacy error.

Recently, a woman ended up with a large hole in her arm as a result of an error made by a compounding pharmacy. According to a local news report, the woman developed a seizure disorder in 2014. Due to other medical issues, she could not take a standard medication, and so her doctor prescribed a B-12 shot that was to be filled by a local compounding pharmacy. For years, the woman took the medicine as specified with no issues.

Maryland pharmacy errors are almost all preventable. Medication errors that occur in the hospital setting are no exception. While a doctor is typically the one who prescribes a patient medication, nurses are frequently the ones who administer the medicine. Often, nurses care for numerous patients, many of which share the same symptoms, take the same medications, or have similar names. It is this potentially confusing situation that introduces the risk that a nurse can make an error in administering medication to a patient.

A recent news report detailed a pharmacy error resulting in the death of a patient. Evidently, the patient, Mrs. Cook, was in room 26. Two doors down was another patient named Mrs. Cock. Mrs. Cock was prescribed hydromorphone, a powerful painkiller that was kept in a secured cabinet in the hospital’s medication room. However, Mrs. Cook was accidentally given Mrs. Cock’s hydromorphone pills. Within nine days, Mrs. Cook died.

Two nurses were present when Mrs. Cook was given the incorrect medication. When asked about the incident, the nurse who was primarily responsible for Mrs. Cook’s care claimed that a registered nurse who was helping out was responsible for the error. He also stated that he did not see the registered nurse administer the medication to Mrs. Cook because he was busy reviewing Mrs. Cook’s chart. The nurse acknowledged that the two women were “physically quite different.” He also admitted that Mrs. Cock was able to walk while Mrs. Cook was often confused and needed assistance with most daily activities.

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