Articles Posted in Patient Safety

Pharmacists have a great deal of responsibility in that they are responsible for accurately providing patients with physician-prescribed medication, double-checking that their prescribed medication does not negatively interact with other medications, and advising patients with medication-related advice. There can be little doubt that pharmacists have their hands full. This is especially the case when pharmacies are understaffed or during unusually busy hours.

Pills in HandAccording to a recent news report, the long hours and stressful work conditions present in many pharmacies across the country result in an increased risk of potentially serious errors. The article interviews several retired pharmacists, who relay their concerns about how the industry has become more demanding on pharmacists, often requiring that they work 14-hour shifts with only a few short breaks.

With drive-thru windows becoming more common over the years and the pressure to keep the pharmacy’s bottom line in mind, pharmacists not only are working long hours but are highly stressed while on the job. By some estimates, pharmacies are filling up to 800 prescriptions per day. These factors, according to the pharmacists interviewed in the article, have contributed to an increase in errors over the past several years. However, due to a lack of regulations, pharmacies are not required to report most of these errors, resulting in a dearth of accurate official statistics.

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The availability of prescription medication is restricted and controlled by the government for good reason. In most cases, prescription medications are powerful drugs that, while they do have the power to heal, also have the potential to cause serious adverse effects in some patients.

White PillsIn some cases, medications are only available through a prescription because that specific medication presents an increased risk of abuse. However, some drugs pose no real potential for abuse but are controlled due to the serious effects they may have on the patient. Of course, this includes situations in which the patient is taking other prescription medication, as well as cases in which the patient is prescribed only one medication. The reality is that even with the advancement of medicine, doctors and pharmacists cannot always know how a patient’s body will react to a certain medication.

In general, doctors and pharmacists have a duty to ensure that the medication they are providing to a patient is not known to be dangerous. This means that a pharmacist should not substitute generic medication for name-brand drugs unless the physician specifically allows for such a substitution. It also means that pharmacists should be double-checking which medications a patient is taking before providing a new medication that may adversely react with an existing one.

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It is common for the victims of prescription mistakes and other potentially dangerous medical errors to feel sympathy for medical professionals who made a mistake that could form the basis for a lawsuit. In fact, some victims decide not to report an error or make a claim because they feel guilty revealing a potentially career-ending mistake that was innocently made by a pharmacist or another medical professional.

PillsAlthough this feeling is understandable, the victims of pharmacy errors should not feel guilty about bringing claims seeking damages to which they are entitled. In fact, pharmacy error claims ultimately benefit not only the retail pharmaceutical industry and pharmacists as a whole, but also the American people by helping form a professional and respected occupation that is responsible for the health and lives of our citizens.

Pharmacy Industry Report Discusses the Motivation Within the Industry that is Caused by Error Claims

An article recently published by a pharmaceutical industry magazine attempts to show the issue of pharmacy errors from a pharmacist’s perspective. In the report, one pharmacist is spotlighted, and he discusses the effect that pharmacy errors have had on his career. Referring to the errors as “inevitable” in the careers of pharmacists, the article demonstrates the idea that pharmacy error claims and lawsuits, and more specifically the desire to avoid them, provide a great deal of motivation to those in the pharmaceutical industry and may actually improve the overall quality of care by incentivizing accuracy when dispensing prescription medications.

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Prescription drugs are controlled by the government for a reason. They are often very powerful medications that can be dangerous when taken at the same time as other medications, they may be easily abused, and they may have very sensitive dosing instructions. However, when a doctor prescribes a patient a prescription medication, it is often very important that the patient take the medication as directed. A patient’s failure to do so may result in a worsening of symptoms, resulting in a serious injury or death.

Yellow PillsThis risk of injury translates to a very important duty on the part of the pharmacist to ensure that the patient’s prescriptions are properly filled, dosed, and dispensed. A pharmacist’s failure to properly complete a patient’s prescription may mean that a patient is not receiving the medication that they need. Any worsening of symptoms caused by a pharmacist’s mistake may be the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. One recent example of a pharmacy error illustrates how serious the repercussions can be when a patient fails to get his physician-prescribed medication.

Man Requires Kidney Transplant after Pharmacy Error

Earlier this year, an Ohio man was diagnosed with stage 5 renal failure after the pharmacy where he fills his blood-pressure medication accidentally gave him anti-seizure medication. According to one local news source covering the tragedy, the error occurred when the pharmacy technician filling the prescription overrode an error that was supposed to alert him that he was filling the prescription with the wrong medication.

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When most people think of pharmacy errors, they think of a busy pharmacist behind the counter at a grocery store or retail pharmacy. However, pharmacy errors occur in all shapes and sizes and at all locations, including errors in medications that are administered in the hospital by medical professionals. Many of these errors include injectable medications that are given to the patient through an IV.

IV DripOf course, the ultimate burden of ensuring that a medication is safely administered to the patient lies with the pharmacist and, in cases of inpatient care, also with the nurse or doctor administering the medication to the patient. Whenever a patient is given the wrong medication or even the wrong dose of the correct medication, that patient may suffer a serious adverse reaction, potentially resulting in serious injuries or even death. In these circumstances, the patient or their family may be entitled to monetary compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. This is among the reasons that pharmaceutical companies take the possibility of errors involving their medication very seriously.

Pharmaceutical Company Develops System to Reduce Error Rates among Injectable Medications

It is estimated that the total number of errors involving injectable medications is roughly 1.2 million per year, making these errors not as uncommon as most people think. The cost of injectable medication errors reaches into the $5 billion range, and this figure cannot accurately take into account the pain and suffering of the patients and families involved. Because of the severity and frequency of these errors, one pharmaceutical company developed a specialized system to help combat injectable medication errors at hospitals across the country.

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Almost everyone has been to the pharmacy to fill a prescription at some point in their life. In fact, many people routinely visit the pharmacy each month to get their regular prescriptions filled for maintenance medications. Some of these frequent pharmacy customers have many different prescriptions of which the pharmacist must keep track. And in the case of some HIV patients, the varying doses of the prescribed medication adds yet another element for pharmacy staff to handle.

Assorted PillsNo matter how complex a patient’s prescription order may be, pharmacists are required to take their time with each order, ensuring that it is properly filled and labeled. In the case of some patients with complex prescription orders, like those diagnosed with HIV, this may mean a significant amount of work for the pharmacist, including fielding constant updates from a patient’s care providers about the patient’s status and current prescription requirements. With this increased workload, unfortunately, comes an increased chance that an error will be made.

HIV Patients Are Especially at Risk for Medication Errors

According to a recent article by an industry news source, a study may have come up with a way that can decrease the likelihood of medication errors in HIV patients. As with other illnesses, the transitional time between care providers is the most dangerous time for HIV patients. The premise of the study was simple:  increase the amount of face-to-face contact the pharmacist has with the patient. Specifically, the pharmacist would be present at the patient’s admission to the hospital as well as each day for some defined period.

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Pharmacy errors are more common than most people realize, with approximately 7,000 deaths each year being attributed to medication errors. Many of these medication errors occur at retail and hospital pharmacies, where busy pharmacists scramble to fill thousands of prescriptions each day. Even a good-hearted and well-intentioned pharmacist can get overwhelmed by the workload and make a seemingly small mistake that can have enormous consequences for the patient.

Pills in HandSeveral pharmacies in Vermont are trying to do things a little differently in hopes of decreasing pharmacy errors. According to a recent NPR article, at least two pharmacies in this state are putting together daily packets of medication for their patients so that the patient does not need to open the pill bottles, which may number in the dozens, and keep track of the medication themselves. The packets are prepared 30 days in advance so that a patient can get all their prescriptions for the month in one trip to the pharmacy. The patients who receive this service are mostly elderly and take between 15 and 20 pills per day.

Of course, this system does give rise to concerns about accuracy. One pharmacist explained that a patient he was caring for recently went into the hospital and was taken off a certain cardiac medication. However, the pharmacy was not notified and ended up providing the patient with the pill, even though the provider had stopped prescribing the medication. The pharmacist, seeing this as a big problem with the system, also addresses this concern. Through increased communication with their patients’ medical care providers, pharmacists try and keep up to date with patients’ prescriptions so that a patient’s daily packets do not result in non-prescribed medication being provided to the patient.

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Medication errors are a major cause of serious injury and death in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that at least 7,000 Americans die each year due to medication-related issues. Many of these are due to patients being provided the wrong drug or wrong dose by their pharmacist. Of course, the pharmaceutical industry and pharmacies themselves are strictly regulated by the United States government, but it is largely left to the individual pharmacist how they go about doing their job on a day-to-day basis. While some pharmacists certainly implement fail-safe protocols to ensure they are error-free, others are more fast and loose, creating an increased risk of a serious or fatal medication error.

diet-pills-1328802_960_720The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government body responsible for the oversight of pharmacies nationwide. According to one industry news source, the FDA has recently issued specific protocols for pharmacists and drug manufacturers to follow so that they can reduce the chance of causing a serious pharmacy error.

One of the issues the FDA sees as a major problem is the fact that many medications with vastly different purposes share similar names. This can lead to a situation in which a busy pharmacist inadvertently grabs the wrong medication and provides it to a patient. To help alleviate this, the FDA recommends that pharmacy staff should “write down the prescription and then read back the medication name, strength, dose, and frequency of administration for verification.”

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Whenever a person is injured after using a dangerous product, they are able to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, and potentially others in the chain of commerce who handled the item. In the case of dangerous medical products, sometimes there are many people who suffer the exact same or very similar injuries. In these cases, a class action lawsuit may be the best option for the injured patients.

pregnant-1435168Class Action Lawsuits in General

Generally speaking, class action lawsuits are beneficial for plaintiffs because they allow a large group of plaintiffs to argue their case together. Of course, this can save on legal costs, and it can also help the individual plaintiffs in their negotiations with the defendant manufacturer. However, class action lawsuits are not always appropriate.

One of the biggest hurdles to proceeding with a class action lawsuit is “certifying” the class. Before a class of plaintiffs can proceed against a defendant in a single case, the court must certify them as an official class. There are many requirements in order for a class to be certified, but one commonly argued issue is whether the injuries are similar.

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Whenever a patient is given the wrong prescription, or even the incorrect dose of a prescribed medication, the results can be devastating, depending on the medication provided as well as the individual patient. Children and the elderly are at a heightened risk for developing serious or fatal symptoms after a pharmacy error, so it is especially important that these individuals are hyper-vigilant when it comes to double-checking their pharmacist’s work.

medications-342456_960_720Anyone who has been to a pharmacy recently likely agrees that pharmacists are busy people. They are often responsible for hundreds – if not thousands – of prescriptions each day, often involving similarly named medications prescribed for drastically different ailments. It is only natural that every now and again a pharmacist will mix up two patients’ medications, or inadvertently grab the wrong medication and provide it to the patient.

When these mistakes happen, most of the time they are caught before a serious injury results. However, elderly patients with many prescriptions may forget to double-check the medication prior to taking it. If a serious injury occurs as a result, the pharmacy where the prescription was filled may be held liable in a Maryland pharmacy error lawsuit. Of course, pharmacists don’t make these mistakes on purpose, but when an oversight is made, it is the patient who pays the price.

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