Articles Posted in Common Errors

Patients have to put a great deal of faith in their doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. We put our lives in the hands of medical providers. But medical providers can make mistakes just like anyone else. Since medication errors occur all too frequently, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have to be vigilant in making sure that every patient is getting the right medication.

Diabetes SuppliesProving Negligence in Medication Error Cases

To recover damages in a Maryland medication error case, a plaintiff must show that the defendant acted negligently. Negligence can be shown by demonstrating that the defendant was negligent in doing or failing to do something. A plaintiff must show the following elements:  the defendant had a legal duty to use due care toward the plaintiff, the defendant failed to perform that duty, the plaintiff suffered damages, and the defendant’s failure to perform the required duty caused the plaintiff’s damages.

Examples of damages available to medication error victims include medical expenses, lost wages, physical therapy, and loss of earning capacity.

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Pharmacy errors are much more common than most people believe. Indeed, according to some estimates, one in 12 patients are provided the wrong medication or an incorrect dose, or are given instructions that are not correct, given the patient’s specific circumstances. While most Maryland pharmacy errors do not result in serious harm to the patient, thousands of errors each year result in hospitalization.

Random PillsAccording to a recent article, the British Health Secretary is so concerned with the high rate of prescription errors in his country that he has vowed to conduct an in-depth investigation into the root causes of these errors and to develop remedial measures to decrease the prevalence of pharmacy errors moving forward. The article explains that of the roughly one billion prescriptions filled by pharmacies each year, approximately 80 million contain some kind of error.

Some experts attribute the high rate of errors to frequent lapses of care across the health care system, including a lack of knowledge of primary care physicians and a hasty pharmacy environment. Researchers hope that the continued development of automated pharmaceutical dispensing systems will help to decrease error rates in the future; however, these systems come with their own risks of use.

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While pharmacy errors have a number of causes, one of the more common causes of Maryland prescription drug errors is when a pharmacist incorrectly reads the prescription form filled out by a patient’s physician. In the past, these errors have often been attributed to the poor penmanship of physicians. However, over recent years, the number of these errors has remained high despite new electronically completed prescription forms.

White PillsTo be sure, pharmacists do not have an easy job, and a lot of responsibility rests on their shoulders. In many pharmacies, management keeps staffing levels low in order to save on labor costs. However, this decrease in pharmacy staff often comes at a cost – which is all too often paid by the patient.

As pharmacists take on more and more work per shift, their accuracy necessarily decreases because they are spending less time per patient. Indeed, there have been recent reports of pharmacists failing to submit their work to be double-checked and overriding electronic safety protocols.

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With the increase of pharmacy errors over the past several years, many pharmacies are looking to automated systems to reduce the element of human error in the filling of prescriptions. Indeed, most Maryland prescription errors are caused by busy pharmacists trying to keep up with what seems like a never-ending workload. While pharmacists are certainly well-intentioned, the reality is that by acting in haste, they place patients at risk.

Pink PillsIn many cases, these automated systems use a series of bar codes to inventory, track, and dispense medication, making sure that the proper medication gets to the patient. However, even with the advent of these new automated systems, serious pharmacy errors still occur. When a pharmacy error does occur, the results may be devastating, especially when the patient is elderly or young, or when the medication in question carries serious side effects.

Infant’s Mother Provided Expired Medication at Retail Pharmacy

Earlier this month, the mother of a four-month-old baby was given medication for her child that had been expired for six months. According to a local news report covering the error, the child was suffering from a severe case of acid reflux and was prescribed medication for the condition by the family’s physician. The mother took the prescription to a local pharmacy, picking up four boxes of the medication. By the time the mother got back to her car, she double-checked the box and noticed that all four boxes had been expired for six months – two months before her baby was even born.

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Pharmacists rely heavily on an advanced command of mathematics to accurately fill prescriptions and avoid Maryland pharmacy errors. While some medications come pre-packaged, and all a pharmacist needs to do is double-check the physician’s instructions, other prescriptions require pharmacists to make small adjustments to dosage or administration instructions. This is especially the case in compounding pharmacies, which create specialized pharmaceutical compounds.

Assorted PillsAccording to a recent industry news report, a significant number of pharmacy errors are caused by pharmacists incorrectly placing decimal points, or by the improper use of leading or trailing zeros. These errors, known as errors that involve a factor of 10, can result in a patient being given 10 times the required strength or one-tenth of the required strength, depending on the error.

The most common types of decimal point errors involve a pharmacist providing a patient with medication that is 10 times stronger than that which the patient’s physician prescribed. For example, if a physician prescribed a .5-mg dose, a pharmacist may miss the decimal point and provide the patient with a 5-mg dose. Of course, the dangers of this type of error are self-evident, especially when dealing with controlled substances.

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Pharmacists, like doctors and nurses, are medical professionals and are accordingly held to a high standard. This standard requires that pharmacists perform the duties of their job diligently, ensuring that patients are provided with accurate prescriptions and instructions on how to take their medication. When pharmacists make mistakes, anyone injured as a result of the mistake may be entitled to compensation through a Maryland pharmacy error lawsuit.

Random PillsPharmacy errors are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across the United States each year, making it an important topic among researchers. The underlying causes of pharmacy errors vary, but according to a recent news article, workplace pressures are a major cause of pharmacy errors.

Historically, getting to the bottom of why pharmacy errors occur has been a difficult process, due to the lax reporting requirements. Indeed, the article explains that the number of pharmacy errors has remained constant over the past several years, but, due to changes in reporting requirements, the number of reported incidents has gone up. The researchers discovered that roughly 25% of all errors are caused by pharmacists providing the wrong medication to the patient, and another 25% of all errors are being caused by the pharmacist providing incorrect or unclear instructions on how to take the medication.

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When researchers look into the causes of medication errors, errors are broken down into several categories. Two of the main types of Maryland medication errors are errors that occur in a hospital setting and those that occur in a patient’s own home.

pillsWhen researchers refer to at-home medication errors, they are referring to prescriptions that are picked up at retailer hospital pharmacies and brought home, where the patient takes the medication without supervision. Hospital medication errors, on the other hand, are usually administered by a nurse or another medical professional while a patient is in in-patient care.

According to a recent study, the rate of at-home medication errors has been going up in the past few years. Researchers note that back in 2000, the medication error rate was 1.09 in every 100,000 patients. However, in 2012, that figure rose to 2.28 patients across all patient demographics except young children under the age of six. Researchers note that the errors most commonly involve cardiovascular drugs, analgesics, and hormone therapy medication.

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Maryland prescription errors can occur at different stages in the prescription process. One of the ways errors can occur is when a pharmacist misinterprets the doctor’s handwriting on the prescription form. Errors can also occur when a doctor handwrites a prescription but forgets to include certain pertinent information.

Pharmacy CounterEven when a prescription error is not fatal, it can still seriously affect a patient’s safety and quality of health. Advocates have encouraged doctors to reduce prescription errors by introducing automated systems, uniform prescribing charts, and immediate review of prescriptions. Some argue that in addition to improving the readability of prescriptions, electronic prescriptions can also help by providing the doctor with optimal dosages.

Study Finds Handwritten Prescriptions Contain More Mistakes than Electronic Prescriptions

According to one news source, a recent study looking at opioid prescriptions found that there were more mistakes in written prescriptions than in electronic prescriptions. The study looked at prescriptions filled at a pharmacy at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The researchers sought to determine whether prescription processing methods contributed to inconsistencies and errors in opioid distribution. The researchers reviewed all of the prescriptions processed for adults during a 15-day period. There were 510 prescriptions in total. The study evaluated the prescriptions based on three criteria:  compliance with best practice guidelines, which include standards such as legibility and including the date; the inclusion of at least two patient identifiers; and compliance with federal opioid prescription rules, which require including the patient’s full name and address.

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Pharmacists are responsible for ensuring that the prescriptions they fill are correct. Of course, this means that pharmacists must take care to provide patients with the correct medication, at the correct dose, and with the appropriate dosing instructions. To be sure, most medication errors involve an oversight involving one of these issues. However, according to a recent news article, a pharmacist in New Zealand recently provided one patient with a three-month supply of medication that was just one month away from being expired.

White PillsEvidently, a patient went to the pharmacy to fill a prescription of Ferrograd. When the pharmacist provided the patient with the requested three-month supply, the pills provided to the patient were to expire in one month. A few months later, the patient went back to refill another prescription. This time, the pharmacist gave the patient the wrong drug entirely. At this time, the patient double-checked her Ferrograd prescription and realized it was expired. She returned the prescription for a replacement.

The supervisory board found that the pharmacist failed to fulfill the duty that was owed to the patient, and it implemented an investigation into the pharmacy’s practices. The pharmacy explained that whoever dispensed the prescription wrote down the incorrect drug name and retrieved the incorrect pills from a similar-looking bottle. The pharmacist ended up acknowledging her mistake and providing the patient with a written apology.

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Pharmacy errors have been on the rise over the past few years. While there are many reasons why a pharmacist may give the wrong medication to a patient, one of the most commonly reported causes of pharmacy errors is look-alike and sound-alike drug names.

Medicine PacketsThe pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on marketing to sell medication. Once a medication is established as effective and becomes popular, other medications that perform a similar function may be released with similar-looking or -sounding names. This can create a dangerous situation when a busy pharmacist needs to fill multiple medications for drugs that all sound the same, each with its own dosing requirements and instructions.

The Government’s Efforts to Curb Pharmacy Errors

According to an article in a recent industry publication, the Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis (DMEPA) has recently ramped up its efforts to review drug labels prior to FDA approval in hopes of decreasing the total number of errors due to look-alike and sound-alike drugs.

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