Articles Posted in Patient Safety

The novel coronavirus or COVID-19 has drastically impacted life for Maryland residents and businesses. Pharmacies across the state and the nation have been particularly affected. Pharmacies are a vital part of the healthcare system and have needed to remain open during the pandemic. However, if pharmacies are not careful, they may be doing more harm then good, by contributing to the spread of COVID-19 and causing more and more Americans to fall ill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been regularly updating guidance for pharmacies on their website. The guidance recommends that everyone entering the pharmacy should wear a face mask or covering, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. This includes both customers and pharmacists. Also, pharmacists are encouraged to limit contact with customers as much as possible, by maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet, placing the prescription on the counter for them to pick up instead of handing it directly to them, and using hand sanitizer frequently.

Importantly, the guidance also advises pharmacies to ensure that staff who are sick stay home. Pharmacists and other staff members may come to work even when they have a fever or other COVID symptoms, including body aches or a cough. While they may not want to work while sick, their employer may not have an adequate sick leave policy, and employees may fear losing their job if they request time off. Now more than ever, pharmacies need to ensure that they create policies that allow their employees to stay home when sick, and then encourage their employees to take advantage of these policies.

Technology is a crucial component of the healthcare industry. Not only do advancements in technology help pave the way for new medications and treatments, but they also lead to the development of new processes that may reduce the risk of a Maryland pharmacy error.

Recently, we wrote about pharmacist burnout being a significant contributor to Maryland pharmacy errors. While pharmacists typically work long hours, that is especially the case with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Thus, the issue of pharmacist burnout is a topical one in need of a solution. According to a recent news report, some experts are suggesting that pharmacists use vending machines to reduce the instances of errors.

While some countries have used vending machines for over-the-counter medications, for the most part, the United States has yet to do so. According to a proponent of the idea, vending machines could be stocked with common over-the-counter and prescription medications. The WIFI-enabled machine would have its own address to which physicians could e-prescribe medication. After a physician prescribed a medicine, the patient would go to their local pharmacy, type in their information, and receive the medication. Proponents of the vending machines agree that while some prescription drugs would be included in the machines, controlled substances would only be available through the pharmacist.

When a Maryland patient receives a prescription from a pharmacist, they typically trust that the pharmacist has given them the correct medication and the correct dosage. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Pharmacists make mistakes far too often while filling patients’ prescriptions, and these mistakes can have long-lasting consequences and lead to illness, injury, or even sometimes death. Fortunately, however, there are things Maryland residents can do to protect themselves from pharmacy errors. The New York Times recently published an article detailing five things patients should do when getting a prescription from a pharmacy.

First, patients should talk to the pharmacist dispensing their drugs. Pharmacists are knowledgeable about drugs, common issues with drugs, and how they may interact with other medications someone is already taking. Talking to the pharmacist also increases the chance that they will take a second look at a patient’s prescription, hopefully catching any errors. This precautionary step is especially useful if it is a new medication, since patients may not know what the pill is supposed to look like and won’t immediately notice errors.

Second, patients can protect themselves by taking a few seconds right inside of the pharmacy to open the bag. According to Institute for Safe Medication Practices, one of the most common pharmacy errors is dispensing a prescription to the wrong patient. Take time to check that the correct name of the patient is on the bag as well as on the box or bottle inside the bag. In this instance, patients may be able to fix a pharmacy error before it even leaves the pharmacy.

Maryland medication errors occur all too frequently and can have dire consequences for patients. The most recent study conducted by the Institute of Medicine found in 2013 that medical errors caused between 210,000 to 440,000 deaths per year. Of course, an exact number is difficult to determine because medical records are not always complete, and providers can be reluctant to disclose mistakes. In 2014, one study found adverse drug events were one of the most common medical errors in the country.

Errors involving what are known as “look alike, sound alike” (LASA) medications involve medications that sound similar or look similar in appearance, packaging, or in the names of the medications. Such drugs pose a higher risk of medication errors. As one recent article found, “Depo-” medications are often the subject of medication errors. There are several medications on the market today that begin with the prefix “Depo-.” The prefix means that the medication is administered via a depot injection that deposits the drug into tissue. However, people have consistently mixed up different “Depo-” medications with one another. Some of the most common errors are: “Depo-Provera,” “Depo-Subq-provera 104,” and “Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection”; with “Depo-Medrol,” and with “Depo-Testosterone.”

For example, according to a recent news report, a physician mistakenly injected a patient with Depo-Provera instead of Depo-Medrol in 2015, after the medication had been inadvertently stored in a bin where Depo-Medrol was normally kept. In another case, a patient was injected with Depo-Medrol instead of Depo-Provera, which she was being given for contraception. The patient became pregnant as a result of the mistake. In that case, the staff person had mistakenly taken a vial of the drug where both drugs were stored next to each other.

It is estimated that pharmacy errors are responsible for between two to five percent of global hospital admissions. While determining the exact number of Maryland pharmacy error victims is difficult to determine due to the lax reporting requirements, experts believe that at least seven million people fall victim to medical errors each year. What’s more, the same experts believe that nearly a third of these errors are entirely preventable.

Of course, not all pharmacy errors result in patient harm. Most often, pharmacy errors that do result in harm to the patient involve at least one high-risk medication. However, the term “high-risk medication,” is somewhat controversial in that it implies that less attention needs to be paid to anything that is not a high-risk medication. Nonetheless, the term is commonly used to refer to medicines that are frequently involved in errors or present heightened risks of harm.

An industry news source recently published an article discussing what pharmacists can do to reduce the frequency of pharmacy errors. The article identifies several risk areas where pharmacists should pay extra attention.

Prescription medications are potent and potentially hazardous drugs that can cause serious illness or even death if not properly administered. While pharmacists are medical professionals who are required to obtain significant training and experience before they are allowed to serve customers, they are also human and subject to error. Because of this, Maryland patients should do all they can to reduce the chance of falling victim to a Maryland pharmacy error.

The duty to ensure that a patient receives the correct medication rests with the pharmacist. However, patients should not sit back and place complete trust in pharmacists, especially because several simple precautions can be taken to significantly reduce the chance of a Maryland medication mistake. By taking the precautions below, pharmacy patients can reduce the risk that they will become the victim of a Maryland pharmacy error.

  • Maintain a complete and accurate list of all medications: this list should be brought to all doctor’s appointments, as well as to the pharmacy when filling a prescription. Pharmacists should double-check the list a patient provides them with their records, and ensure that there are no two drugs with adverse interactions.

Medical mistakes, including pharmacy errors, are among the leading causes of death in the state. Notwithstanding the data showing that preventable medication errors affect nearly 7 million patients per year, most people maintain an “it could never happen to me” approach when thinking about these potentially dangerous errors. However, the reality is that anyone can fall victim to a Maryland pharmacy error.

Not all pharmacy errors are harmful, and fewer yet are fatal. In fact, most pharmacy errors are caught by another pharmacist or the patient. Of the patients who end up bringing the incorrect prescription home and taking it, few will experience immediate side effects. That, however, does not mean that the un-prescribed medication will not cause the patient harm; only that there are no immediate effects.

The best way to avoid suffering the ill effects of a Maryland pharmacy error is to prevent the mistake from happening in the first place. Of course, the duty to prevent a mistake does not ultimately rest with the patient; however, patients should still double-check all prescriptions and seek a consultation with a pharmacist when taking new prescriptions.

For decades, Maryland medication errors have been one of the leading causes of death across the state. For about as long, the pharmacy industry has been trying to come up with ways to reduce these errors, both in terms of their frequency and seriousness. Technological advancements have played a significant role in the reduction of Maryland pharmacy errors, ranging from electronic prescribing, to automatic warning systems that indicate when a patient may be at risk for particularly dangerous interactions.

All technological advancements, however, are not without their own set of risks. In fact, there is a major concern that placing too much reliance on computer systems may prevent the next generation of pharmacists from fully understanding the nuances of their profession. This is especially a problem if a computer system crashes or is otherwise unavailable, perhaps during an emergency.

Notwithstanding the potential concerns of around the use of technology, it is perhaps the best hope to improve the healthcare system. For example, according to a recent news report, an Israeli doctor recently developed a program that is designed to catch prescription errors early on in the process, before the medication is provided to the patient. The doctor looked at how the typical prescription error occurred, noting that there were several points along the way where an error should be noticed. However, due to what he called systemic failure, these errors were routinely being missed.

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.

Continue reading ›

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.

Continue reading ›

Contact Information