Articles Posted in Common Errors

Each year, it is estimated that there are approximately 700,000 medication errors resulting in over 100,000 patient hospitalizations. The pharmacy industry realizes that this is a major problem, and for decades has been taking steps to reduce the rate of prescription errors among retail and hospital pharmacists. Most recently, a representative from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) gave a lecture discussing common types of pharmacy errors and what pharmacists can and should do to guard against them.

Assorted MedicationMedication errors occur due to a breakdown somewhere along the line; from when a physician writes a prescription to when the pharmacist provides it to the patient. According to a recent industry news report detailing the speaker’s comments, she claimed that pharmacy errors occur throughout various points in the process, and pharmacists should take precautions every step of the way.

The ISMP representative discussed that there are several situations in which an error was more likely to occur. For example, when a pharmacist is dealing with drug shortages, vaccines, improperly or unlabeled medication, and insufficient drug allergy alerts, the rate of error was highest. The pharmacist detailed three of the most alarming prescription errors that she was made aware of over the past year, including:

  • A patient who was prescribed 25 mg of hydralazine rather than the prescribed medication, hydroxyzine;
  • A child-patient who developed Parkinson-like symptoms after being provided with an improperly diluted dose of risperidone; and
  • An elderly Alzheimer’s patient who was given both a 5mg and 10 mg dose of donepezil at the same time rather than the prescribed 5mg dose for four weeks to be followed by the 10mg dose afterward.

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While the exact number of Maryland pharmacy errors is disputed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers a conservative estimate of approximately 7,000 deaths per year due to medication errors. Due to lenient reporting requirements in the pharmacy industry and the industry’s interest in keeping errors out of the mainstream news, experts believe that the true number of errors is much higher. Some reports suggest that upwards of 1.3 million people are harmed each year by prescription errors.

Extra Strength PillsPrescription errors have a number of potential causes. However, like most mistakes, the most common cause is that the pharmacist filling the prescription overlooked something they shouldn’t have. Poor communication between health care professionals plays a role in many pharmacy errors. Along those lines, pharmacists will often misinterpret a physician’s abbreviations, either prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dose. Mistakes are also commonly made involving drugs with similar-sounding names.

Each of these situations involves one common variable:  a negligent pharmacist. Undoubtedly, most of the pharmacists who are responsible for pharmacy errors are well-intentioned. However, given the everyday stress and steady workload, many pharmacists end up taking short cuts that can hurt their patients.

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The chances are that anyone who has dropped off a prescription or refill request to a retail pharmacy has had to wait a considerable amount of time for the pharmacist to fill the prescription. First, the patient must wait in line to drop off the prescription. Then, the pharmacist often tells a patient to come back in at least 30 minutes – sometimes even longer.

White PillsWhile waiting 30 or 45 minutes for a prescription to be filled isn’t a problem for most patients, the fact that a pharmacy is so busy raises some concerns for pharmacy experts. According to a recent news report discussing the prevalence of errors and what can be done to curb them in the future, it is estimated that there are approximately 100,000 deaths caused by pharmacy errors each year. The leading cause of Maryland pharmacy errors is commonly understood to be an overworked pharmacist.

The article details the startling account of a woman who was provided the wrong medication by her local pharmacy. The woman was prescribed the pain medication Gabapentin. Her physician instructed the woman to take the medication three times a day, taking two pills for each dose.

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Prescription errors can have devastating consequences for people of any age. The wrong dosage or medication can have long-lasting consequences and, in some cases, can be fatal. A recent article shows how children may be at greater risk for prescription errors in some circumstances. Since some medication is produced at dosages that are too high for children, they have to be reduced. The process of creating a smaller dosage is another opportunity for prescribers and pharmacists to make mistakes and for miscommunications to occur.

Child in HospitalIn the case of a Maryland prescription error, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant was negligent by failing to meet the relevant standard of care. An example of this might be a pharmacist’s failure to administer the prescribed dosage. In these cases, a plaintiff may be entitled to compensation for their injuries.

Article Reveals Life-Threatening Errors in Administration of Flecainide to Children

Flecainide, an oral antiarrythmic drug, can be prescribed to treat supraventricular tachycardia or atrial fibrillation. However, it is only available commercially in doses of 50 mg, 100 mg, and 150 mg, so when given to infants and small children, who require smaller doses, it has to be given in the form of a suspension. A recent article discusses how there have been life-threatening errors during the preparation of the suspension, resulting in serious overdoses.

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Over the past decade, the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in the number of deaths as a result of opioid use and abuse. Indeed, according to the most recent government statistics, over 35,000 people die each year as a result of opioid overdoses. Roughly half of these deaths are caused by prescription painkillers. These figures represent a nearly three-times increase over previous years.

The recent rash of opioid deaths has called into question the medical profession’s reliance on these drugs to treat pain. Notwithstanding the well-understood dangers of opioid use and abuse, opioid painkillers are still prescriExtra-Strength Medicationbed in record numbers each year. Not surprisingly, given the number of prescriptions filled each year, there are a significant number of pharmacy errors involving opioids.

Regardless of the type of medication involved, pharmacists have a duty to ensure that a patient’s prescription is filled accurately. This means not only making sure that the correct drug is provided to the patient, but also providing the proper dose and instructions. When pharmacists make an error involving a drug as dangerous as an opioid painkiller, there is a high likelihood that the patient could accidentally overdose.

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The online retail giant Amazon recently announced that it would soon be entering the pharmacy business. With Amazon’s impressive delivery network, the company believes that it has a service to offer those who would otherwise need to travel to the nearest pharmacy to fill their prescription. Some believe that Amazon’s entrance into the pharmacy business may reduce the number of Maryland prescription errors.

pillsDue to the volume of transactions that Amazon handles annually, some are seeing Amazon’s entrance into the pharmacy business as an opportunity for the industry to make major strides toward a safer process. The idea is that Amazon has the clout necessary to make pharmaceutical companies make changes to the way drugs are packaged and marketed.

According to a recent industry news report, the leading cause of pharmacy errors is inadvertence. Simply stated, most pharmacy errors are results of a busy pharmacist grabbing the wrong medication because its name or packaging is so similar to the medication the patient requires. And, according to the article, drug manufacturers have little reason to change because they are not normally held liable for errors. However, the article notes that as Amazon enters the business, the company may be able to use its influence to require manufacturers to make changes to the way companies package and market their drugs, potentially resulting in an overall decrease in the amount of pharmacy errors.

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As is the case with most professions, becoming a pharmacist involves not only getting an education but also obtaining the necessary hands-on experience. Of course, as medical professionals, pharmacists are responsible for the safety of their patients, and any Maryland pharmacy error made by a trainee can have potentially drastic consequences for a patient’s health. Thus, normally, pharmacists in training are closely supervised to ensure that any mistakes they make are caught and fixed before the prescription is passed on to the patient. However, providing this level of supervision is costly to pharmacists, and too often efficiency is favored over safety.

White PillsIn a recent article discussing the high frequency of pharmacy errors and potential ways to cut back on the number of errors, it was suggested that pharmacists may make fewer mistakes once they are certified to work on their own if they are allowed to make mistakes in training. The proposition is not a surprising one, since it has often been said that “practice makes perfect.” However, in the context of the medical field, patients rightfully expect “perfect” performance when it comes to filling their prescriptions.

The article discusses one pharmacist’s experiences in training and proposes a method to ensure that pharmacists in training are able to make the mistakes they need to make and learn from them. For example, the pharmacist explained that he would have to fill 1,000 prescriptions in a row without an error before he could move on to his next exercise. If he made a single error anywhere along the way, he would start back at zero. He explained the frustrating in reaching 200 prescriptions several times, only to make a minor error.

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Pharmacy errors present a serious risk of injury not just to patients who take medication that they need to keep them healthy but also to anyone who fills a prescription. In many cases, Maryland pharmacy errors involve a patient being provided with a dangerous medication that they were not prescribed. This can result in a wide range of dangerous side effects, up to and including death.

Blister PacksGiven the risks involved, pharmacists generally take their job very seriously and want to ensure that their patients are given exactly the medication and dosage they are prescribed. However, pharmacies are for-profit corporations that exist to make money. And by scheduling fewer pharmacists, the pharmacy is spending less in labor costs and can keep more of the money it receives.

According to a recent news report, some pharmacists have recently expressed frustration with the fact that they are pressured to fill prescriptions quickly, focusing more on filling a large number of prescriptions than making sure the prescriptions that are filled are accurate. These employees told reporters that they felt as though their employers viewed the occasional pharmacy error as a “cost of doing business.”

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Prescription errors can have devastating consequences for Maryland patients. These types of errors can be caused by a number of different issues, including writing the wrong prescription and dispensing the wrong medication. Some of these errors may be reduced by changing something as simple as the packaging of the medication. Some drugs have similar names, and other bottles look alike, increasing the likelihood of error. Experts are pushing companies to make changes in cases of confusing labeling, naming, and packaging.

Medicine CaseIn a prescription error case, an individual must show that the defendant was negligent in doing or failing to do something by failing to meet the standard of care required. This might include failing to properly read the label on a medication bottle. However, industry experts are working to help medical professionals avoid such errors.

FDA Guidance Seeks to Reduce Errors Due to Labeling and Packaging

Look-alike and sound-alike medications increase the likelihood of prescription errors, according to one news source. One report found that 33 percent of all medication errors and 30 percent of deaths from medication errors resulted from issues with medication labeling and packaging.

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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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