Articles Posted in Patient Safety

Each year, there are estimated to be approximately 1.5 million pharmacy errors across the United States. Of those, about half are later determined to have been preventable. While these figures may seem shocking, the reality is that the actual number of pharmacy errors may be much higher given lax pharmacy reporting requirements.

In most states, a discretionary reporting system is used. In general, even when mandatory reporting is implemented, a pharmacist is not required to report an error unless it results in patient harm. However, in many cases, a patient will not immediately show symptoms of a medication error. Thus, pharmacy errors that do not result in immediate serious harm or are not delivered to a patient do not need to be reported. If you have questions that relate to potential pharmacy negligence, contact a Maryland medication error attorney.

Mother Pushes for Stricter Reporting Requirements

Back in 2016, a young boy in Canada died in his sleep after his mother was given the wrong medication when she went to refill her son’s prescription. According to a recent news report covering the tragic accident, the boy suffered from parasomnia, which caused the boy to wake up screaming and crying in the middle of the night. The boy’s physician prescribed tryptophan, and the boy had taken the drug for about a year.

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Over the past decade, many pharmacies began to offer free shipping to encourage patients to order their prescriptions online, over the phone, or through the mail. It seems pharmacies hoped that by decreasing foot traffic in their brick-and-mortar locations, they would be able to reduce their labor costs and run more efficiently. After offering free shipping for several years and developing a consistent number of online orders, pharmacies are now doing away with free shipping.

Some experts point out that as pharmacies begin to charge for shipping again, patients will no longer order their prescriptions online and will head into the pharmacy to obtain their medication. According to a recent industry news report, experts noticed an increase in the rate of pharmacy errors over the past few months, which correlates with the abolition of free shipping. If you believe a pharmacist has erred in your prescription, reach out to a Maryland pharmacy error attorney.

Experts argue that the sudden and perhaps unexpected increase in foot traffic in retail pharmacy locations is creating a busy workplace for pharmacists, who feel increased time pressure to fill patients’ prescriptions promptly. The experts point out that roughly half of all prescription errors occur in the retail pharmacy setting, and one of the primary reasons for this is because pharmacists are overworked. Indeed, most of the causes of a prescription error can be traced back to a lack of diligence or attention, which is often due to the heavy burden placed on individual pharmacists.

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A new study reports that flu vaccinations are occurring more frequently in alternative settings such as pharmacies, clinics, and work, as one news source reported. According to the study, patients between the ages of 18 and 64 had higher rates of early vaccination at clinics, pharmacies, and workplaces, helping to increase the number of flu vaccinations received before November 1st. Also, high-risk patients over 65 years of age reported even higher rates of early flu vaccinations at pharmacies and work. The study’s author found that there is an association between the setting where a vaccination is received and the timing, and that non-traditional vaccination settings help to increase the rates of flu vaccinations before November 1st, a deadline set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the CDC, the 2017-2018 flu season was particularly severe, It was reported that an estimated 80,000 Americans died from the flu and its complications. These numbers included 183 pediatric deaths. It was the highest rate of death from the flu in the past four decades. The CDC recommends getting the flu vaccination as early as possible because it takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccination for the antibodies that protect against the flu to develop in the body.

Liability of Flu Shot Providers in Maryland Pharmacies and Other Alternative Settings

As more individuals in Maryland and throughout the country receive flu shots in alternative settings, providers can still be held liable for errors in dispensing the vaccine. Although many vaccinations are administered without issue, mistakes can occur, even in a routine procedure like the administration of a flu shot. For example, the incorrect dosage may be administered, a needle may be mistakenly used more than one time, side effects may not be disclosed, or the wrong vaccination may be administered. In the event of an error, some individuals may be able to bring a medical malpractice claim to recover compensation for the injuries they sustained.

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Most people assume that when they go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, the medication provided to them by the pharmacist is the same medication that their doctor prescribed. However, the reality is that each year there are thousands of reported pharmacy errors. Many of these errors result in a patient being provided the wrong drug, while others involve the pharmacist providing patients with the wrong dose or the incorrect instructions. If you believe you were injured as a result of receiving the wrong prescription medication or dosage, contact a Maryland pharmacy error attorney.

Pharmacists have a duty to ensure that the prescriptions they fill are accurate. Often, retail pharmacies are extremely busy and rely on a pharmacist technician to fill a prescription, which is then later checked by the pharmacist prior to being provided to a patient. However, during these busy times, both pharmacists and technicians are often handling multiple prescriptions and are more likely to make an error.

While the ultimate duty to ensure a patient is not given the wrong medication rests with the pharmacist, there are certain precautions patients can take to decrease the chance that they will be sent home with the wrong medication. A recent news article discusses a few of these steps, including:

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Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals, much like doctors or nurses. And under the United States’ medical system, pharmacists have a very important role to play in providing medical care to patients. Indeed, patients not only rely on pharmacists to be accurate, but also to be diligent in looking out for potential adverse drug interactions that a physician may have missed.

Like other medical professionals, pharmacists have a duty to those whom they serve. While the nuances of a pharmacist’s duty to her patients is exceedingly complex; at its most basic level it requires pharmacists to accurately fill all patient prescriptions and provide meaningful medication consultations when requested or required. However, each year there are thousands of medication errors, many of which result in serious harm to the patient.

The duty pharmacists owe to their patients evolves over time as scientific research uncovers new best practices and technology developments allow for more accurate record-keeping and prescription dispensing. According to a recent industry news source, all pharmacists should be taking the following steps to avoid making preventable errors:

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Shingles is a viral disease characterized by a skin rash consisting of painful blisters that usually appear in a strip across a person’s face or body. While the symptoms of Shingles will usually go away within a few weeks, some experience nerve pain that can last years.

The disease is caused by a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the initial exposure of which causes chicken pox. The reason why the VZV virus reactivates is not widely understood by the medical community, although it is understood to occur more in the elderly and those with a compromised immune system.

There have been several vaccines created to prevent Shingles. As of 2017, a new vaccine called Shingrix was approved for patients over 50 years of age and can prevent most cases of Shingles. Once Shingrix was approved for use, it later became the preferred vaccine according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Unfortunately, it has been involved in Maryland pharmacy errors and errors in other states.

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Prescription medications are controlled by the government for good reason. Indeed, many prescription drugs are dangerous substances that are only approved for use under strict conditions for very specific applications. It may be that a prescription drug negatively interacts with other commonly consumed medications, or that the medication itself easily leads to dependency and addiction. The bottom line is that prescription medication can be dangerous, and pharmacists and manufacturers should take all steps necessary to prevent Maryland pharmacy errors.

One of the most important tools pharmacists can use to decrease the chance of a serious or fatal prescription error is to make sure that the label affixed to the prescription is correct and written in plain English so that the patient can understand the directions. According to a recent news report, experts have been studying the impact that label design has on a patient’s likelihood of experiencing an error. The study found that patients are experiencing errors even with properly filled medications due to confusing medication labels.

For example, the article discusses a situation in which a woman was prescribed a patch containing pain medication to help with her arthritis. The label indicated the woman should apply the patch when she feels pain, but it did not specify how many patches to use at one time. The woman’s family later discovered that she had been using the pain patches all over her body, effectively overdosing on the medication contained in the patch.

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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.

In 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.

Given 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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Maryland prescription errors can occur at different stages in the prescription process. One of the ways errors can occur is when a pharmacist misinterprets the doctor’s handwriting on the prescription form. Errors can also occur when a doctor handwrites a prescription but forgets to include certain pertinent information.

Even when a prescription error is not fatal, it can still seriously affect a patient’s safety and quality of health. Advocates have encouraged doctors to reduce prescription errors by introducing automated systems, uniform prescribing charts, and immediate review of prescriptions. Some argue that in addition to improving the readability of prescriptions, electronic prescriptions can also help by providing the doctor with optimal dosages.

Study Finds Handwritten Prescriptions Contain More Mistakes than Electronic Prescriptions

According to one news source, a recent study looking at opioid prescriptions found that there were more mistakes in written prescriptions than in electronic prescriptions. The study looked at prescriptions filled at a pharmacy at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The researchers sought to determine whether prescription processing methods contributed to inconsistencies and errors in opioid distribution. The researchers reviewed all of the prescriptions processed for adults during a 15-day period. There were 510 prescriptions in total. The study evaluated the prescriptions based on three criteria:  compliance with best practice guidelines, which include standards such as legibility and including the date; the inclusion of at least two patient identifiers; and compliance with federal opioid prescription rules, which require including the patient’s full name and address.

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