Articles Posted in Patient Safety

prescription pillsMost 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.

MedicineLike 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.

Legal News GavelThe 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.

Legal News GavelOne 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.

Legal News GavelIn 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.

Legal News GavelGiven 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.

Legal News GavelEven 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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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.

Legal News GavelAccording 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.

Legal News GavelIn 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.

Legal News GavelAlthough 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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