Articles Posted in Errors in local pharmacies

Pharmacists are trained professionals. Yet, pharmacy errors occur with frightening regularity. According to a recent industry news report, there are at least 1.5 million preventable pharmacy errors each year in the United States. While many Maryland pharmacy errors are the result of a pharmacist mixing up the names of similar-sounding drugs, the dosing errors are also very common.

Math is a very important part of a pharmacist’s job. In fact, a life changing pharmacy error can be caused by a very simple mistake involving simple arithmetic. The aforementioned article explains several pharmacy errors and how easy they can happen. For example, one pharmacy received a prescription for a baby weighing 13 pounds, 5 ounces. The prescription called for 333 milligrams Amoxicillin suspension every 12 hours for 7 days. Thus, according to the prescription, the child would receive 666 milligrams of the medication per day. The general medication guidelines for Amoxicillin provide for up to 25 milligrams of medication per kilogram, given in evenly-divided doses ever 12 hours.

The proper way to fill the prescription is as follows: The child weighs 13 pounds, 5 ounces, or approximately 6.05 kilograms. By multiplying this number by 25, the daily dose for the child should be about 151 milligrams. Because the medication should be dosed twice per day, 12 hours apart, each dose should be about 76 milligrams.

For those that have suffered an injury because of a Maryland pharmacy error, there several different types of damages that may be recoverable if they are successful. Damages in a Maryland personal injury case are generally divided into two categories. The first, special damages, are economic damages. These are typically the out-of-pocket expenses that a plaintiff incurs because of the incident. Special damages often include medical treatment, lost income, and future expected costs and lost income, and others depending on the scenario. The second, general damages, are non-economic damages, as well as other types of damages. These generally do not have a fixed monetary value. General damages often include pain and suffering, which involves the physical and emotional distress the victim suffered, as well as loss of consortium and “other nonpecuniary injury.”

In some cases, punitive damages may be available. Punitive damages can be challenging to prove, because a plaintiff must prove that the party at fault had actual knowledge of the wrongful conduct. Punitive damages ate intended to punish the defendant and to stop others from engaging in such behavior.

There is a cap on non-economic damages in Maryland injury cases. The cap increases each year on January 1 of each year by $15,000. As of January 1, 2020, the non-economic damages cap is $830,000. More can be recovered in wrongful death cases with two or more claimants or beneficiaries. Earlier this year, a Maryland appeals court upheld the non-economic damages cap, finding that it did not interfere with the role of the jury in jury trials.

Prescription errors made by pharmacies or medical institutions may be grounds for a lawsuit if the patient was injured as a result of the prescription error. A lawsuit may be filed against a pharmacist and the pharmacy for Maryland prescription errors in instances of negligent or willful conduct by the individual or the organization. In a negligence claim, a patient must show that the individual or organization failed to meet the relevant standard of care by giving the patient medication with the incorrect dosage or drug. A plaintiff must demonstrate that it was more probable than not that the pharmacist’s wrongful conduct caused the injury the patient suffered. In some instances, the wrongful conduct may be so serious as to warrant punitive damages against the individual or the organization.

In Maryland, normally, plaintiffs can recover damages for economic damages, such as medical bills, wage loss, and other losses and expenses, as well as non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. These damages are referred to as compensatory damages, because they are meant to compensate the plaintiff.

In contrast, punitive damages are not concerned with compensating the plaintiff for their losses but rather to punish the defendant for bad conduct and to deter others from engaging in such conduct. Under Maryland law, in order to warrant punitive damages in a case, a plaintiff must show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with actual malice, or with knowing and deliberate wrongdoing.

The last thing many patients think to do when picking up a prescription from their local pharmacy is to check the pharmacist’s work. However, given the startling rate of Maryland pharmacy errors, this critically important step should not be overlooked. Did the prescription provided by the pharmacist contain the correct medication? Was the dosage correct? Was the correct number of pills included in the prescription? These are just a few of the questions that patients must ask themselves when picking up a prescription for themselves or a loved one.

Of course, the burden to ensure that a prescription is accurate should not rest with the patient. And legally it does not; pharmacists have an obligation to fill all prescriptions accurately. However, because the repercussions of a pharmacy error can be so devastating, patients should do everything they can to avoid being the victim of a Maryland pharmacy error.

As mentioned above, pharmacists are medical professionals and – like doctors – they have a duty to their patients. This includes the responsibility to accurately fill all prescriptions, regardless of how long it takes. However, the realities of working in a busy pharmacy too often outweigh these practical concerns and pharmacists may fail to double-check their work for fear of getting too far behind. Not surprisingly, this drastically increases the risk of an error.

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Any time a pharmacist provides a patient with the wrong medication, there is the possibility that there will be serious, potentially life-threatening consequences. However, when the victim of a Maryland pharmacy error is a young child, the risk that the error will result in serious injury or death significantly increases. And while parents should check all labels and all accompanying literature to ensure that an error has not occurred, the duty ultimately rests with the pharmacist to accurately fill a prescription.

In many cases, after a child is given the wrong medication the parent will quickly realize that there has been an error because their child will exhibit symptoms. However, some symptoms may not arise immediately, and may take days, weeks, or even months to arrive. Generally speaking, a Maryland pharmacy error victim has three years to bring a claim under the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations may be tolled from the time of the error to the point where the patient realizes that she suffered injury. Additionally, if the patient is a minor, the statute of limitations is tolled until the day before the minor turns 18 years old. However, just like most things in life, it is not a good idea to wait until the last minute to file a claim.

Newborn Baby Given the Wrong Medication by Local Pharmacy

Earlier this month, a local news article reported on a pharmacy error that allegedly occurred at a CVS pharmacy. Evidently, a mother picked up what she thought was a prescription for her newborn daughter’s acid reflux. The mother gave the medication to her daughter for two weeks before realizing that the drug the pharmacist provided her was actually a steroid. During the period when the newborn was taking the unprescribed steroid, she was vomiting, swollen, not sleeping and cried more often than usual.

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Medication errors are believed to be one of the leading causes of death across the United States. Indeed, there have been countless studies focusing on the causes of pharmacy errors and the best ways to reduce them. However, the fact remains that medication errors result in over 3.5 million hospitalizations each year, with over a million of those to the emergency room.

The exact number of patients harmed by Maryland pharmacy errors is difficult to determine. In part, this is due to the lax reporting requirements. In Maryland, as is common across the United States, pharmacists are not required to report most of their errors, and do so only voluntarily.

According to a recent investigative report, pharmacy errors are routinely swept under the rug and kept out of the public eye. The report recounts the case of a man who died after ingesting the wrong medication that he obtained from his local pharmacy. The man’s autopsy report confirmed that the pills on the bottle did not match those which he was prescribed. However, pharmacist “neither admitted or denied” the allegations, and was ultimately fined $3,000.

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When most people hear that a pharmacy error has been made, they picture a busy pharmacist who provided one patient with another’s medication after transposing a few letters in a patient’s last name. And with thousands of medications in the average pharmacy, there certainly are a significant number of Maryland pharmacy errors involving a pharmacist providing a patient with the wrong medication altogether. However, this is only one type of pharmacy error.Many pharmacy errors involve a patient receiving the correct medication, but the wrong dosage. This can either occur when a pharmacist provides the patient with the wrong strength of medication or when the instructions provided to the patient are incorrect. In either event, a patient can suffer serious injuries by taking too much (or too little) of a prescribed medication. Children are especially susceptible to this type of error, since medication tends to affect them more, given their size and weight.

Parents are encouraged to double-check their children’s prescriptions for any errors at the pharmacy. In addition, parents should consult with pharmacy staff, letting them know that the medication is for a child.

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When a pharmacist incorrectly fills a patient’s prescription, the problem created is two-fold. First, the patient often ends up taking medication that was not prescribed to them. Of course, depending on the type of medication involved, this can cause serious side effects. In some cases, the damage caused by taking this unprescribed medication can result in life-long effects.

The other danger involved in a Maryland pharmacy error is that the patient is not receiving the medication that they were prescribed. In most cases, a physician prescribes medication to a patient because it is imperative for the patient’s health. If a patient does not take prescribed medication based on a pharmacist’s error, or if the patient takes unprescribed medication due to a pharmacist’s error, the pharmacist may be held liable for any injuries that result.

In some cases, a patient realizes that they have been taking the incorrect medication based on the symptoms they are experiencing or after double-checking the prescription label. However, one of the problems that the victims of pharmacy errors often encounter is that they may not experience symptoms of the error immediately. Or, if they do experience some symptoms, they may not link the new symptoms to an undiscovered pharmacy error.

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Earlier this month, a local news article covered the story of a woman who suffers from what appear to be permanent symptoms related to an overdose of prescription epilepsy medication. According to the report, the woman was diagnosed with epilepsy years ago and wrestled with various treatments. Eventually, she was prescribed 10 mg of Briviak, an epilepsy medication, twice a day.

The pharmacist to whom the woman took the prescription, however, filled the prescription with 100 mg pills. The woman took the medication as prescribed for three months, refilling the prescription several rimes in that period. Once she discovered the error, the woman’s doctors had to slowly wean her off the medication. Despite that, she still suffers from withdrawal symptoms. In addition, she suffers from permanent pain and twitching. She told reporters that, although she is just 24 years old, she feels as though she is a “75, 80-year old woman.”

The pharmacy responsible for the error acknowledged the mistake, claiming that it was in fact due to human error. The pharmacy has since revised their processes and coached all pharmacists and technicians. The woman told reporters that she understands humans can make mistakes, but she hopes to bring awareness to the issue of pharmacy errors. She has not yet decided if she will pursue a lawsuit against the pharmacy.

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When a pharmacist provides a patient with the wrong medication, and the patient suffers harm as a result of the pharmacist’s error, the patient may be entitled to monetary compensation though a Maryland pharmacy error lawsuit. However, while these cases seem to present straightforward and easily identifiable issues, in practice, pharmacy error cases can be extremely complex. Most often, these complexities arise when attempting to establish causation.

Some pharmacy error cases, however, are straightforward, and liability is more easily established. When this is the case, it is more likely that the defendant pharmacy will opt to settle the case out of court rather than take the case to trial.

Regardless of the specific facts at issue, pre-trial settlements can help both sides in a Maryland personal injury case. For one, settlement agreements allow for each side to know exactly what the outcome of the case will be without the uncertainty of having a trial. This allows for pharmacies to more accurately gauge what their liabilities will be and allows for the victims to have a firm grasp on how much compensation they will receive for their injuries. In addition, pre-trial settlements can result in the efficient resolution of a case, often saving months, if not years. For these reasons, among others, it is estimated that approximately 95% of all civil cases result in the parties settling the case out of court.

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