Articles Posted in Fatal Pharmacy Errors

Medication errors that result in serious illness or death are one of the most disturbing types of medical negligence claims. While any medical error can cause a serious or life-threatening situation, medication errors often result in immediate death. Maryland’s medication errors not only cost people their lives, but they also cost healthcare systems and taxpayers a significant amount of money every year.

When individuals seek medical treatment for a long-term condition or emergency, they understandably put their trust in the various medical providers coordinating their care. However, successful coordination requires that each provider engages in their duty of care to the patient. In many situations, one misstep can cause a deadly chain of events.

Medication errors can result from a doctor’s, nurse’s, or pharmacy’s error. Many claims stem from inadequate written or oral communication, system errors, untrained medical providers, and ineffective precautions. These errors may cause patients to experience an allergic reaction, adverse side effects, or deprive them of life-sustaining medication. A medical provider or pharmacy may be liable for negligence if they

Maryland pharmacy errors can range in their severity. Some may be harmless—a mistake is made when filling a prescription, but it does not really make a difference to or harm the patient. For example, the wrong version of a drug might be given, but the two drugs are substitutable. Or the instructions are messed up, telling the patient to take the drug every morning instead of at night, but it does not really matter so long as it’s only taken once a day. In these cases, individuals may not even know that there has been a mistake. But sometimes, pharmacy errors can be far more serious. Individuals given the wrong drug, the wrong dosage, or the wrong instructions, for example, may face significant bodily harm, or severe illnesses. In some cases, the mistakes may even be fatal.

For example, take a recent tragedy where a pharmacy error allegedly caused the death of an 82-year-old woman. According to an article covering the incident, the woman died on New Year’s Eve 2020, just hours before the world rang in 2021, after being wrongly sent antidepressants instead of her regular prescription for weeks. The woman’s caretaker found her semiconscious after one of his breaks and discovered that the drug she was supposed to be taking—the water retention drug furosemide—had actually been the antidepressant fluoxetine. The pharmacist had mixed up the drugs, which both started with the letter F. While researching the drug she had been taking—fluoxetine—it was discovered that internal bleeding was a potential side effect. And tragically, the patient died from an upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage, thought to have been caused by the pharmacy error.

The family is, understandably, heartbroken. The woman’s son, speaking to a reporter, says that the family feels “very let down because you put your faith and trust in pharmacies and the medication that they deliver.” To have that medication inadvertently kill your loved one is an unimaginable tragedy. While the family did receive a letter from the pharmacy saying that they made a mistake, that letter does not do anything to bring back their loved one. Unfortunately, nothing can. However, the family stated publicly that they are looking into bringing legal action against the pharmacy. While it cannot fix the awful situation completely, many families choose to file wrongful death lawsuits in situations like this one to recover financially for their loss. The monetary damages awarded in these lawsuits can ensure the family does not have to worry about finances while mourning their loved ones, and can cover medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and more.

Maryland pharmacy errors can lead to severe consequences for patients. Because prescription medications are often vital to a patient’s health and well being, pharmacy safety must be taken very seriously. When a pharmacy error occurs, patients may get sick or become injured, either because they took the wrong medication that was bad for them or because they did not take the correct medication that they actually needed. In some tragic cases, the error may even lead to death—highlighting the need for pharmacists and pharmacies to follow all safety protocols when filling prescriptions.

For example, a recent transcription error by a pharmacy technician taking medication orders over the phone led to a female patient’s death and a personal injury lawsuit seeking significant monetary damages. According to a report of the case by Pharmacy Times, a female patient was hospitalized for fluid buildup in her lungs. When it came time for her to be discharged, a nurse at the hospital called in her prescriptions at a local pharmacy. The call was being taken by a pharmacy technician, who made numerous transcription errors, misspelling the names of several medications and the name of the nurse, and recording an incorrect birth date for the patient. In addition, they made an error related to the dosage of the inhaler being prescribed (recording a dosage 10 times the correct amount).

Most significantly, the technician mis-recorded the daily dosage of methotrexate instead of the metolazone that was intended. The pharmacist on duty at the time approved the prescription, not realizing the error. But at trial, he testified that the dosage being prescribed would be safe for a patient once or twice per week, not on a daily basis. When the patient’s husband picked up the medication, he was provided no further counseling even though guidance and experts recommend counseling should be provided with new drugs, particularly high-alert ones like methotrexate. The patient, unfortunately, died as a result of the pharmacy error.

Modern medicine and technology have expanded the number of drugs and medications available to patients struggling with illness, pain, or other health concerns. However, these medications can be dangerous if taken unnecessarily or in the wrong dosage. Generally, Maryland patients cannot decide which medication they will take—they usually need a prescription from a doctor, who has years of training and experience assessing patients’ needs and prescribing drugs that fit their needs. Maryland residents trust doctors to do this for them, but occasionally errors will be made, or a doctor will have a lapse in judgment, leading to injury to the patient.

For example, recently, a government official reported on a case where a doctor breached his duty of care and acted somewhat negligently, giving a patient access to a potentially dangerous quantity of medication. According to an independent news source, the patient in question had a long history of substance addiction and mental illness. In 2017, she was prescribed two drugs. The prescription stated that the drugs were to be given to her in 14-day supplies, so she only had access to two-weeks’ worth of the drug at a given time.

A few months later, the woman requested a three-month quantity when picking up her prescription. The pharmacy sent the request to her doctor, who changed her prescription to allow the pharmacy to dispense 90-day supplies of the medications without reviewing the patient personally. This, according to the government official’s report, was very dangerous—the type and quantity of the medication could be misused, especially considering the patient’s history of substance addiction and mental illness. The doctor had erred by allowing her a 90-day supply without examining her and considering whether she was at risk for misusing the drugs, and in doing so, increased the risk of harm to the patient.

When Maryland residents become sick or injured and need to take medication, they generally trust their medical professionals and pharmacists to give them the right medication, dosage, and instructions. However, as past victims of Maryland pharmacy errors can tell you, that unfortunately does not always happen. Doctors, medical personnel, and pharmacists are human, and will occasionally make mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes can be deadly.

For example, take a recent error where a 55-year-old man was given ten times the amount of pain relief medication than he should have been, tragically causing him to pass away. The victim—a painter and decorator—had been taking pethidine for some time to deal with back pain from a prior incident. However, he was then switched to methadone, as there was a shortage of pethidine. When calculating how much methadone to give the man, the pharmacist made a fatal error—he believed that the methadone was of the equivalent strength to pethidine. However, 5mg of methadone is actually the equivalent of 50mg of pethidine. Because the pharmacist did not double-check, and did not know this, he gave the victim ten times the amount of medication he should have.

Just a few days after taking this medication, the victim was found dead in his home by his son. A post mortem report found that he died in part due to methadone toxicity. After his death, his daughter also discovered a methadone leaflet, which warned patients not to take methadone if they had a lung condition—which her father had. This also raised questions as to why he was prescribed methadone in the first place.

Many individuals across Maryland rely on medication to keep them healthy, or even alive. This medication is crucial, and typically must be taken regularly and in the correct dosage or significant health concerns or even death could occur. Unfortunately, for those who rely on others to handle and administer their medication, they may suffer from medication errors unbeknownst to them. This is especially true for elderly patients, who are more likely to require certain drugs to combat health problems and also more likely to have a caretaker administering said medication.

Often, caretakers administering medications to the elderly do a good job and keep the patient healthy, safe, and on schedule. However, like all human processes, there is room for error, and accidents can and do occur. Unfortunately, mistakes in this process can be deadly. For example, an 87-year-old woman relying on caretakers to give her her daily medication, recently died from a gastrointestinal bleed and stroke. According to a report covering the incident, an investigation of the victim’s death found that her caretakers had given her the wrong medication, four times a day, for two and a half days. While the incorrect medication did not cause her stroke and bleeding, the lack of her correct medicine did, and the victim suffered a tragic death as a result of the mistake.

This case highlights the extreme consequences of medication errors, especially when patients are elderly and rely on caretakers to properly administer their medications. In addition to the problems caused by missing the correct medication, patients may also suffer significant side effects, injuries, or even death caused by the incorrect medication. When this occurs, the results are disastrous and potentially deadly, and nothing can undo the damage done by seemingly simple errors.

E-prescribing or electronic prescribing has become increasingly common in recent years in Maryland and throughout the country. The practice allows the direct transmission of prescription information from a provider to a pharmacy. Many people hail the benefits of electronic prescribing, as handwritten prescriptions are inefficient and carry risks of error. The Maryland Senate introduced a bill earlier this month to allow health practitioners to issue prescriptions for certain controlled substances electronically. However, electronic prescribing carries its own set of risks. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that serious adverse effects, including deaths, have been caused by electronic prescriptions. Such errors can include entry errors, dispensing errors, and transcription errors that are unique to electronic prescribing. Electronic prescriptions require that medical professionals make particular precautions to detect and avoid mistakes. Maryland pharmacy error victims may be able to recover financial compensation in the event of an error.

One woman’s recent death was determined to be caused by an electronic prescription error, according to a news source. The woman was prescribed the drug trimethoprim for a urine infection when she was seen at a hospital. On the same day, her doctors saw test results from an earlier test that showed that an infection would not have responded to trimethoprim, and instead prescribed the woman Amoxicillin. The prescription was transmitted electronically, but by amending the prescription, the prescription for Amoxycillin was not available for the pharmacist to download. The prescription for the patient only reflected the prescription for trimethoprim.

The patient took the medication, and, four days later, was admitted to the hospital with worsening symptoms. The error was recognized, and she was treated, but the woman’s condition deteriorated and she died the following day. A coroner determined that the woman would not have died if she had taken the Amoxycillin she had been prescribed.

Vaccinations are incredibly important to the health and safety of the human population. In fact, vaccinating one’s child is one of the most critical things that a parent can do to protect them and others from many diseases. However, as with any medication or injection, vaccinations do come with some slight risks of Maryland pharmacy errors and injuries or even death.

Understanding the risks and the importance of vaccinations, Congress enacted the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in 1986 so that those affected by vaccine-related injuries or the vaccine-related death of a loved one can petition to receive compensation for the tragic incident. Vaccine injury claims can only be litigated through this system, administered by the Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. In the 43 years since the system began, $4.2 billion in compensation has been awarded to claimants.

There are two ways to qualify for compensation under the program. The first, and easier, way is to establish an injury listed on the Vaccine Act’s injury table that occurred within a designated period after the vaccine was received. If this can be shown, causation is presumed, and compensation is awarded. Injuries on the table include anaphylaxis, chronic arthritis, shoulder injuries, and paralytic polio.

Most people fill their prescriptions at a local pharmacy. However, over the past decade, more patients have begun to use mail-order pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. For many, mail-order pharmacies offer convenience and, for some patients, medication may be available at a lower cost. However, mail order pharmacies also present certain risks to patients. Indeed, there are hundreds of Maryland medication errors resulting from the negligence of mail-order pharmacies.

Not surprisingly, given the seriousness of the substances they deal with, pharmacists have a legal duty to their patients to accurately fill prescriptions and provide sound advice regarding the provided medication. Common types of errors include giving patients the wrong medication, dose, or incorrect instructions for how to take the medication. When a pharmacist makes an error that adversely affects a patient’s health, the pharmacist may be liable for the patient’s injuries.

Recently, the family of a woman who died as a result of taking unprescribed medication filed a lawsuit against the mail-order pharmacy that filled the woman’s prescription. According to a recent news report, the error occurred back in 2013, when the 74-year-old patient was sent medication she thought to be for her various conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney dysfunction and a history of strokes. However, as it turns out, the pharmacy sent the woman six prescriptions that were meant for another woman.

Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion addressing issues that frequently occur in Maryland pharmacy error lawsuits. The lawsuit stemmed from the tragic death of a woman who received the wrong medication from her pharmacy. Evidently, the woman was treated at a hospital for fluid buildup in her lungs. At discharge, a nurse called the woman’s pharmacy, spoke to a pharmacy technician, and ordered a prescription for a diuretic. However, the technician made several errors when inputting the patient’s information, including wrong identifying information, incorrect spelling of the nurse’s name, and misspelling of several medications. However, the most egregious error was misreporting a medication and dosage. This error had severe consequences, as the patient died as a result of the incorrect medication.

The woman’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital and the pharmacy, alleging damages for negligence and requesting additional damages due to aggravating circumstances. The hospital settled their claims, and the lawsuit against the pharmacy proceeded to trial. The pharmacy moved to dismiss the aggravating circumstances portion of the lawsuit. The trial court granted the motion, and the jury awarded the family two million dollars in damages; however, the amount was significantly reduced because of the applicable damage caps. The family appealed the judge’s decision to dismiss the aggravating circumstances element of their claim.

Under Maryland law, pharmacy error plaintiffs can recover damages for the injuries they sustained because of the pharmacy’s negligence. Maryland law allows plaintiffs to recover compensatory damages to make them “whole again.” There are two main types of compensatory damages, special and general. Special damages are usually tangible costs that the plaintiff incurred because of the defendant’s negligence. Whereas, general damages are those that cannot be easily quantifiable, such as pain and suffering.

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