Articles Posted in Common Errors

Anyone who takes prescription medication on a regular basis understands the importance of consistency and accuracy. Whether you pick up one or several medications on a regular basis at the pharmacy, every patient deserves to have peace of mind when they receive their prescription. After all, if a medication error were to take place, the consequences could result in injury, or in extreme cases, even death.

Improper dispensing of medications is more common than you may think—in fact, one in five Americans has experienced a medical error while receiving health care. The issue was given even greater attention more than four years ago, when a nurse typed two letters into a hospital’s computerized medication cabinet, selected the wrong drug from the results, and then administered a fatal dose to a patient. Because most hospital systems or pharmacies have computerized medicine cabinets, such technological vulnerability is not uncommon—and Maryland is no exception.

How can medication and pharmacy errors be prevented?

According to a recent news report, pharmaceutical safety experts are recommending a new method for medical practitioners to avoid pharmacy errors. With a new software update that requires drug names to be searched with five letters rather than three, experts are hoping that the fix will rectify issues surrounding withdrawing the incorrect drugs. Currently, most computerized medicine cabinet software programs require practitioners to type only three letters to search up a drug. For example, when a nurse types “M-E-T,” the search results could bring up anything from metronidazole to metformin. One of these drugs is an antibiotic—the other is for diabetes. Administering the wrong drug could yield disastrous results.

Prescription drug side effects and drug interactions may be minor and unnoticeable, though some drug effects can be severe, and even fatal. Doctors and pharmacists are responsible for the drugs they prescribe and dispense, and harmful side effects and drug interactions should be considered when giving a drug to a certain patient. Because some drugs are more prone to causing serious side effects and harmful interactions, a nonprofit organization known as the Institute for Safe Medical Practices (ISMP) has been compiling a database of the medications that carry an increased risk of resulting in patient harm when they are used or prescribed incorrectly. This database is part of the ISMP’s division known as the National Medication Errors Reporting Program (MERP). An article recently published by a pharmaceutical trade industry journal discusses some recent revisions that have been made to the ISMP database.

According to the recently published article, the medications in the database are not necessarily more likely to cause side effects or drug interactions, but the effects and interactions that do occur with the listed medications are more likely to be serious and result in patient harm. The article notes that the use of the MERP medication database is only a small part of an effective risk reduction strategy that should be employed by pharmacies to protect their patients. Medication errors will probably never be completely eliminated, and because of that, it is especially important for pharmacies and their employees to utilize a multi-faceted approach to preventing and catching medication errors.

What Is the Most Common Cause of Prescription Errors?

Human error is the most common cause of harmful medication mistakes. Because pharmacists and their employees are often overworked and understaffed, it is not prudent to place all of the responsibility for catching an error with a single person. The great advances in machine learning algorithms and automation technology have enabled pharmacies to automatically catch many errors that may have gone unnoticed before. Even with the technological advances, the ISMP recommendations are not always eagerly followed by pharmacies. Corporate greed, cost-cutting measures, and stubborn decision-makers who are resistant to change can all prevent improvements in the industry. When pharmacies refuse to listen to sound advice like that given by the ISMP, patients can be put at risk. Because of this, patients are still in danger of serious harm from medication errors anytime they visit a pharmacy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has strained nearly every industry worldwide, however, healthcare workers remain one of the most affected groups by the public health crisis. Pharmacists in particular are especially burdened with extra duties related to vaccination and testing, as well as the staffing shortages and worker burnout that are affecting industries nationwide. Because pharmacists and pharmacy workers are so strained, the risks associated with burnout are real. Strained and stressed out pharmacists and other medical workers are more likely to make mistakes in their work, which may put patients at risk. A recently published news report discusses measures that one pharmacy chain is taking to address the risk of burnout among pharmacists and other employees.

According to the local news report, a major national pharmacy chain is enacting a new policy to close down their pharmacies for a 30-minute lunch break where every pharmacy employee will be given uninterrupted time to themselves to prevent the effects of burnout from affecting their work. According to company sources quoted in the news report, pharmacists and other employees have been complaining about unsustainable levels of stress and the lack of adequate breaks. The company hopes that the new policy will help their workers’ psychological wellbeing while also protecting patients from pharmacy errors.

Can Pharmacists Be Responsible for a Doctor's Prescription Error?

Yes, in some cases, pharmacists can be legally responsible for a mistake that originated with the prescribing physician. Pharmacists and their assistants play an important role in checking of the drugs that were prescribed by a medical provider to a patient are being dispensed properly. Doctors can make mistakes in choosing drugs or dosage amounts, and harmful drug interactions may not be noticed until it is too late. Because of this, it is important for pharmacy employees to be attentive and vigilant in protecting their patients.

Whether you only take medicine when you are sick or you have several medications to keep track of on a daily basis, we expect prescriptions to be filled by the pharmacy accurately. Medication errors, which take place when the type, dosage, or instructions associated with a prescription are incorrect, can have injurious or even deadly consequences.

Although medication errors took place before the pandemic, COVID-19 has exacerbated many previously existing issues. Many pharmacists, like other front-line health care providers, are overworked, exhausted, and burnt out with no reprieve or end to the pandemic in sight.

Before the pandemic, pharmacists already had dozens of responsibilities. From filling prescriptions, organizing various scripts, communicating back and forth with providers and patients, operating the drive-through, coordinating pickup and drop off of prescriptions, and conducting consultations, pharmacists are no stranger to busy and long days. The pandemic, however, increased the number of existing responsibilities. Now, in addition to previous obligations, pharmacists are also administering COVID-19 vaccines and tests while also frequently working with smaller numbers of staff because of people getting sick or social distancing requirements.

Reducing medication errors and improving patient outcomes is not a recent concern; however, the recent healthcare worker shortages have increased the likelihood of Maryland pharmaceutical errors. Improving the judicious use of prescription medications and reducing adverse reactions has been at the forefront of the public health movement. While these are legitimate concerns, they do not address the issues that stem from healthcare worker errors. Even simple errors can have long-term and disastrous consequences for a patient.

Medication errors refer to “an act that through ignorance, deficiency, or accident departs from or fails to achieve what should be done.” In the context of medication and pharmacy errors, patients maintain five “rights,” including the right medication, right dosage, right route, right time, and right patient.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Prescription Errors?

Although errors occur for various reasons, some factors enhance the likelihood and severity of a mistake, for example, poorly written communications, failure to obtain informed consent, and systemic issues within the pharmacy. Computerized systems and changing orders to plain English have helped to reduce errors. However, many pharmacies are understaffed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased demand for tests and vaccinations.

Dispensing errors are an unfortunate yet frequently occurring situation in many retail and hospital pharmacies. While some Maryland pharmacy errors may not result in severe consequences, other errors can be deadly to consumers and patients. In addition to thousands of health supplements, herbs, and lotions, nearly 7,000 prescription medications and countless over-the-counter drugs are available in the country. Pharmacy errors are occurring at an alarming rate because of the growing number of pharmaceutical and holistic substances on the market in conjunction with staff shortages.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about 8,000 people die because of a medication error every year, and hundreds of thousands of patients experience adverse reactions or other complications. These startling numbers result in exorbitant costs; additionally, many patients experience physical pain and psychological suffering because of medication errors.

What Are the Causes of Pharmacy Errors?

While there are many reasons that pharmacy errors occur, the primary causes stem from communication failure, illegible handwriting, incorrect selection, and pharmacist or technician confusion. While some errors involve human error, others involve flawed or defective automated systems. In some cases, the combination of these errors results in improper dispensing. Those with questions about a recent pharmacy error should consult with a personal injury lawyer.

The seriousness and speed with which the Covid-19 pandemic has overburdened the American medical system has been troubling. Because of the urgent dangers presented by the virus, drug manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies have been incentivized to develop and market preventative and therapeutic medications to address Covid-19 as quickly as possible. Because these medications are urgently needed, the Food and Drug Administration has been unable to fully test and approve all of the new drugs, instead of granting some of the emergency use authorization while the full approval is pursued.

An antiviral drug regimen that was recently developed by Pfizer has shown much promise at preventing serious cases of Covid-19 based on early studies. The FDA has granted emergency use authorization to the treatment, however, not all of the possible side effects and interactions are yet known. A recently published pharmaceutical industry report discusses possible side effects of the new treatment in patients with moderate to severe kidney disease and emphasizes the requirement for pharmacists to make dosage adjustments for such patients who are prescribed the drugs.

According to the industry report, the new drug regimen Paxlovid was developed by Pfizer and granted emergency use authorization by the FDA. The drug regimen is indicated to be used by patients who have tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19 and is at moderate to high risk of being hospitalized or dying from the virus. Because the drugs appear to react differently in people with abnormal kidney function, the emergency use authorization included a dosage adjustment instruction for patients with moderate kidney disease. Under the emergency use authorization, patients with severe kidney disease should not be prescribed the treatment at all.

Medication errors can occur at many different steps in the process of prescribing and dispensing medication. One point at which an error can occur is in providing the correct dosage according to the prescription. A dosage that is too strong or too weak can have serious and lasting effects on a patient. In the event of an incorrect, a patient can file a Maryland pharmacy injury claim against those responsible for the error. In a negligence suit, the patient would have to prove that the defendant in the lawsuit owed the plaintiff a duty of care, the defendant failed to meet that duty by wrongfully acting or failing to act, the plaintiff was injured as a result, and the defendant’s wrongful acts caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In a civil claim, the plaintiff must prove each of the elements by a preponderance of the evidence standard.

Providers and insurers may argue that a patient has not shown that the injuries were caused by the medication error rather than some other condition. This is why experts are often needed in such cases and a lot of investigation is required for these claims. In a successful pharmacy error claim, a victim may be able to recover financial compensation for the damages the plaintiff suffered. These damages may include medical expenses (past and future), physical therapy, transportation costs, lost wages, and physical and emotional suffering.

All claims are subject to a statute of limitations, meaning a time limit for filing a claim. Generally, a negligence claim in Maryland is subject to a three-year statute of limitations. In any case, consulting with an experienced Maryland injury attorney about a potential case as soon as possible is advisable.

Many people take some form of medication on a daily basis. Whether it is a short stretch of antibiotics or a daily pill to help with your blood pressure, recipients of medications should be able to reasonably trust that their pharmacies and healthcare providers are giving them proper care. Sometimes, however, even pharmacists and professionals are prone to errors. These errors, however, can often have devastating consequences if they involve medications. Maryland pharmacies can be held accountable for the errors they make.

According to a recent report summarizing common medication errors in long-term care facilities, pharmacists are essential as gatekeepers in the proactive prevention of prescription errors. Some of the most common medication errors include issues with dispensing, delays in delivery, and expired inventory.

Dispensing errors in long-term facilities often include incorrect dosages, incorrect drugs, incorrect patients, incorrect routes, or incorrect times. Many times, pharmacists will mix up lookalike and soundalike drugs in pharmacies. In addition, incorrect packaging can also result in dispensing errors.

Medications not only have to be safe but also must contain sufficient warnings and instructions so that patients will know how to use them safely. A medication’s lack of clear instructions and warnings puts patients at risk. A plaintiff may bring a Maryland pharmacy claim against a drug manufacturer for failing to warn of the dangers of taking a medication.

Unless a danger is obvious and widely known, the medication must provide adequate warnings concerning the medication’s risks, such as known side effects. Warnings must also be clear and easy to understand. The medication also must include adequate instructions on how to take the medication safely. Courts will consider the knowledge and expertise of the average consumer that uses the medication. If a medication’s instructions are not clear enough or do not contain sufficient information so that consumers will know how to safely use the medication, the instructions are not sufficient, and the manufacturer may be liable for injuries that occur as a result.

In cases where a patient is injured due to a lack of sufficient instructions or failure to adequately disclose risks, the patient may be able to file a Maryland injury claim and recover financial compensation for the injuries. Successful plaintiffs may be able to recover financial compensation for damages including medical bills, psychological suffering, future medical expenses, lost wages, and more. One recent study revealed that at half of the patients were using inhalers incorrectly.

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