Articles Posted in Fatal Pharmacy Errors

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.

While 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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Earlier this month, a man in a New Zealand hospital died due to opioid toxicity after he was administered what turned out to be a fatal dose of fentanyl. According to a local news report covering the story, the error was a result of system-wide failures across the spectrum of care providers.

The victim of the error was at the hospital for a routine knee surgery. The hospital had just implemented a new e-prescribing system the month before, whereby physicians could order medication at a patient’s bedside with one touch on a computer screen. The physician overseeing the victim’s care was attending to another patient when he remembered to put in an order for the victim’s medication. The physician input the medication order and then returned his attention to the other patient.

The physician, however, failed to switch the computer screen back to the patient who was with him. Thus, when the physician entered a medication order for fentanyl patches that was intended for the other patient, the order was sent to the victim’s file.

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By some estimates, medical errors are among the top three causes of death in the United States. While the classification of a medical error is broad, including surgical errors and medical malpractice, the classification also includes pharmacy errors. Indeed, there are tens of thousands of pharmacy errors each year, and this number is likely a gross underestimate because nearly all errors that do not result in serious injuries or death go unreported.

When pharmacy errors are reported, authorities take them very seriously. Indeed, a recent article discusses one pharmacist who was found guilty of reckless homicide and imprisoned for six months after an error he made resulted in a young girl’s death. While this is rare, it does happen because the law does not necessarily require intentional conduct to find someone guilty of a homicide.

According to a recent news report, the pharmacist who was responsible for the young girl’s death has tried to turn his life around with the help of a seemingly unlikely friend – the father of the girl who died from the pharmacist’s mistake. In the wake of his daughter’s death, the girl’s father decided that he did not believe the pharmacist intended to cause an error and that he wanted to do what he could to emotionally support the pharmacist while he was in jail. The two men became friends and have since begun to work together to help raise awareness around issues of pharmacy errors.

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When a pharmacist gives a patient the wrong medication, or the incorrect dose of the proper medication, the patient can be put in great danger. The range of medical issues that can result from a Maryland pharmacy error is broad, but the most common problems that arise after a pharmacy error are adverse reactions and overdoses.

Many prescription medications are controlled for the very reason that they interact negatively with a large number of other medications – both prescription and over-the-counter. Other medications are controlled due to the fact that they require a very precise dosage to be effective. If these medications are provided in excess strength, the patient may suffer an overdose that can potentially be fatal.

Of course, pharmacists are responsible to correctly fill patients’ prescriptions. And while pharmacists cannot normally be held criminally liable for their errors, injured patients and their families may be able to pursue a claim for financial compensation from the pharmacist as well as their employer. These pharmacy error lawsuits, however, can be complex due to the scientific issues that arise when attempting to prove that a pharmacist’s error was the cause of the patient’s injuries.

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Last month, a jury in Massachusetts rendered a guilty verdict in a case brought against a pharmacist who had run a pharmacy that was tied to hundreds of cases of meningitis in 20 states. According to a national news source covering the case, the pharmacist was acquitted of murder charges but was convicted on several counts of “racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead.”

Evidently, the pharmacist ran a compounding pharmacy that would create custom-made medications. However, inspections conducted during the investigation revealed that the equipment used to create the medication was not sterilized, and ingredients used in the process had expired. In addition, prosecutors alleged that the pharmacist, as well as several of his employees, actively lied about the condition of the lab.

The medication created in the lab was shipped to 20 states and was tied to 700 cases of meningitis. It is believed that 64 people died due to the unsafe medication that was created in the lab, which was the deadliest meningitis outbreak in U.S. history.

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Earlier this month, a British news source published an article discussing the 2016 death of a man who was provided the incorrect prescription just days before he died. According to the report, the man had been receiving medication for type II diabetes, heart problems, and glaucoma. He had filled the prescriptions in the past with no problem, but in May of last year he was provided another patient’s prescription. Apparently, the packet containing the pills contained another customer’s prescription with his name on seven different labels; however, the victim’s name was printed on the outermost packaging.

An investigation was conducted into the fatal pharmacy error, and it was discovered that the filling technician had opened the interior packet of pills, added additional requested pills, and then sealed the package back up. Apparently, the technician did not notice that the name on the seven labels inside the packaging and the name on the outside packaging did not match. And neither did her supervisor.

After the error occurred, but before it was discovered, the man began complaining of chest pain and having a difficult time breathing. Two days after the error, he passed away. The coroner’s report indicated that the prescription error at least “hastened” the man’s death. However, the prosecuting authority determined that there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges. Since the accident, the branch where the error occurred has stopped assembling medication packets on location.

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Prescription medications are often dangerous drugs that are subject to government regulation, due to the potential harm they can cause when taken in a manner inconsistent with their therapeutic use. While the majority of pharmacy errors do not result in serious patient injuries, the reality is that there are a significant number of errors each year that do result in serious injuries or death. Often, the pharmacists responsible for these errors are subject to professional sanctions as a result of the error. However, these sanctions often seem insignificant compared to the injury or loss suffered by the victims of pharmacists’ mistakes.

Last year, an elderly woman died as a result of taking five times the prescribed dose of an immuno-suppressant medication. According to a local news report covering the tragic death, the woman was provided the medication by a local pharmacy. Evidently, the prescription was initially incorrectly filled by a new technician. The supervising pharmacist caught the error and directed the technician to fix it. However, the technician failed to correct the mistake, and the pharmacist never double-checked the technician’s work.

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Most deadly pharmacy errors can be traced to a mistake that may not be justifiable or excusable but is at least understandable. Errors such as dosage mistakes that result from a misplaced or removed decimal point, problems in which a patient receives the wrong medication because of a similarly named medication, or patients get mixed up by a pharmacy employee can usually be explained. Because of the serious, sometimes deadly consequences of prescription and pharmacy errors, the victims of these mistakes should be entitled to compensation if they or their loved one is injured, disabled, impaired, or killed as a result of a medical professional’s mistake.

65-Year-Old Woman Receives Paralytic Agent Instead of Anti-Seizure Medication

The unfortunate case of an Oregon woman who died after receiving an intravenous dose of a dangerous medication from an inpatient hospital in 2014 demonstrates that some pharmacy errors and prescription mistakes defy all logical explanation and simply cannot be reasonably explained. In this tragic instance, a woman who was physically healthy when she checked herself into a hospital for symptoms of anxiety was dead two days later after receiving a medication that she had not been prescribed and that should not have been administered to any patient in the dose that she received.

According to a local news report, law enforcement authorities have recently announced that they will not pursue criminal charges against the medical professional who prepared the IV containing the paralytic agent rocuronium instead of the anti-seizure medication, fosphenytoin, that the woman’s physician had ordered. Authorities announced that it would not be in the interest of justice to prosecute the wrongdoer, while implying that they did have sufficient evidence for a conviction in the tragic death.

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Earlier this month, a local Canadian news source published an article about a hospital that admittedly provided substandard medical care to a patient but has since made serious efforts to provide better care. According to the report, the efforts were in response to the death of an 85-year-old patient who was being treated for a bowel obstruction.

Evidently, the attending nurse administered a prescribed narcotic intravenously rather than subcutaneously, as the physician had recommended. This resulted in the man contracting a case of pneumonia and passing away the following day. Initially, the medical examiner listed the man’s cause of death as “natural,” but as the examiner reviewed additional hospital documents the cause was changed to “accident.”

The man’s family was upset with the level of communication and respect they received after their loved one’s passing. Initially, family members felt as though the administration was “obstructing every attempt” to get information about their loved one. In fact, a professional investigation into the hospital’s chief of staff concluded that he was “evasive and vague” when it came to the incident.

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Earlier this year in Lincoln County, Kentucky, a father filed a wrongful death suit against a local CVS pharmacy for their alleged involvement in his son’s death. According to one local news source, the lawsuit filed by the man names the CVS in Danville, Kentucky as well as several employees in the store.

Evidently, the man’s son was admitted to the hospital for a pulmonary embolism and upon his discharge was prescribed several medications by his physician. After his discharge, he went to his local CVS pharmacy and filled the prescriptions. The pharmacy gave him the wrong medication. However, since these were not prescriptions that he normally takes, it wasn’t until two days later that he noticed the medications provided by the pharmacy were not the ones prescribed by his doctor.

He was taken to the hospital by a friend of the family and entered into a fatal cardiac arrest 10 days later. The boy’s father is seeking damages for his son’s pain and suffering, death, loss of earning capacity, and medical and funeral expenses. CVS has not yet responded to or made any public comment on the lawsuit.

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