Articles Posted in Errors in local pharmacies

According to recent reporting, millions of medication errors occur each year, often at chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, where a pharmacist may fill hundreds of prescriptions during a shift while juggling other tasks such as giving vaccinations, calling doctors’ offices to confirm prescriptions and working the drive-through. In a recent survey of California licensed pharmacists in 2021, 91% of pharmacists working at chain pharmacies stated that staffing was insufficient to provide adequate care to patients. The state’s Board of Pharmacy, a regulatory board, requires pharmacies to document and track errors internally and inform patients about mistakes under some circumstances, only 62% of pharmacists working in chains stated that stores were following those rules according to the 2021 survey.

One documented error resulted in the improper dose of a hormonal treatment for breast cancer being delivered. Another case resulted in a pregnant patient suffering a fall after she was given two drugs prescribed to another customer. One patient took prednisone, a powerful steroid, for 89 days after a Walgreens pharmacist confused the drug with Prilosec, the heartburn drug that had actually been prescribed. A pharmacist at CVS gave a patient another customer’s prescription for 50-milligram tablets of Zoloft, the antidepressant, according to a February citation. The person took the wrong drug for at least seven months, refilling the prescription three times.

How Common Are Medication Errors?

According to reports, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives approximately 100,000 medication error reports annually. In 2010, the FDA received only 16,689, but by 2018, the agency was receiving more than 100,000 reports per year. Experts point out that medication error reports are submitted on a voluntary basis, meaning that true medication errors are likely even higher.

COVID-19 has made an indelible impact on almost every aspect of a person’s life, and while there is hope on the horizon, the effects continue to reverberate. One significant impact is the ongoing staff and supply shortages at many pharmacies. Pharmaceutical shortages can be deadly to some consumers, but employee shortages can also result in Maryland pharmacy errors. A recent piece from NBC highlighted how these shortages impact the health of those throughout the country.

Pharmacy technicians primarily work in retail pharmacies and hospital pharmacies. Pharmacies are reporting that many of their technicians are leaving in droves because of the increasing demand. The majority of the workers behind a pharmacy counter are pharmacy technicians. These positions are often low-wage and do not require an advanced degree. Technicians are responsible for counting pills, filling prescriptions, and checking inventory. All of these duties are fundamentally important to ensuring consumer safety.

Although many understand that working in a pharmacy is inherently fast-paced, many technicians argue that the wage has not kept up with the workload. Most importantly, workers explained that the demands led to safety issues for consumers. Workers expressed that the stresses and influx of work made them far more likely to make mistakes or catch errors. These errors can have life-threatening and deadly consequences for those who rely on pharmacists and technicians for their medication.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland residents may have found themselves relying more and more on pharmacists and local pharmacies, particularly as social distancing measures have limited the opportunities to speak with pharmacy staff and ask questions about prescriptions. Although many Maryland patients have been able to get the medication they need from pharmacies, it is important to remember that Maryland pharmacy errors are still happening. Pharmacy errors—which are not unique to Maryland but happen all across the country—can have significant negative consequences, especially during the current public health crisis.

Recently, a pharmacy error made headlines when a pharmacist’s methadone dosage error landed his client in the emergency room. According to a news article covering the incident, the client, a man in his 60s, was at the pharmacy waiting in line to receive his dosage of methadone under an Opioid Substitution Treatment program. The pharmacist identified the client he thought would be the next to receive a dose and turned away to measure the correct dose for that client. But that initial client left the room and the other client stepped forward and was waiting when the pharmacist returned to the counter with the measured dose.

The pharmacist did not follow protocol and say the client’s name when handing them the dose, and instead handed the incorrect dose to the client, who took it. The dosage the client took was 75mg, almost seven times higher than his usual dose of 11 mg. Afterward, before the client left, the pharmacist realized his mistake, but still allowed the client to drive himself home. Later on, the client received a call from a nurse, who had been informed of the error, telling him he needed to seek emergency medical attention immediately due to the risks posed by the increased dose. He was kept at the hospital for a bit but fortunately suffered no long-term complications.

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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