Pharmacists, like doctors and nurses, are medical professionals and are accordingly held to a high standard. This standard requires that pharmacists perform the duties of their job diligently, ensuring that patients are provided with accurate prescriptions and instructions on how to take their medication. When pharmacists make mistakes, anyone injured as a result of the mistake may be entitled to compensation through a Maryland pharmacy error lawsuit.

Random PillsPharmacy errors are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across the United States each year, making it an important topic among researchers. The underlying causes of pharmacy errors vary, but according to a recent news article, workplace pressures are a major cause of pharmacy errors.

Historically, getting to the bottom of why pharmacy errors occur has been a difficult process, due to the lax reporting requirements. Indeed, the article explains that the number of pharmacy errors has remained constant over the past several years, but, due to changes in reporting requirements, the number of reported incidents has gone up. The researchers discovered that roughly 25% of all errors are caused by pharmacists providing the wrong medication to the patient, and another 25% of all errors are being caused by the pharmacist providing incorrect or unclear instructions on how to take the medication.

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When researchers look into the causes of medication errors, errors are broken down into several categories. Two of the main types of Maryland medication errors are errors that occur in a hospital setting and those that occur in a patient’s own home.

pillsWhen researchers refer to at-home medication errors, they are referring to prescriptions that are picked up at retailer hospital pharmacies and brought home, where the patient takes the medication without supervision. Hospital medication errors, on the other hand, are usually administered by a nurse or another medical professional while a patient is in in-patient care.

According to a recent study, the rate of at-home medication errors has been going up in the past few years. Researchers note that back in 2000, the medication error rate was 1.09 in every 100,000 patients. However, in 2012, that figure rose to 2.28 patients across all patient demographics except young children under the age of six. Researchers note that the errors most commonly involve cardiovascular drugs, analgesics, and hormone therapy medication.

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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.

Pharmacy CounterEven 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 are responsible for ensuring that the prescriptions they fill are correct. Of course, this means that pharmacists must take care to provide patients with the correct medication, at the correct dose, and with the appropriate dosing instructions. To be sure, most medication errors involve an oversight involving one of these issues. However, according to a recent news article, a pharmacist in New Zealand recently provided one patient with a three-month supply of medication that was just one month away from being expired.

White PillsEvidently, a patient went to the pharmacy to fill a prescription of Ferrograd. When the pharmacist provided the patient with the requested three-month supply, the pills provided to the patient were to expire in one month. A few months later, the patient went back to refill another prescription. This time, the pharmacist gave the patient the wrong drug entirely. At this time, the patient double-checked her Ferrograd prescription and realized it was expired. She returned the prescription for a replacement.

The supervisory board found that the pharmacist failed to fulfill the duty that was owed to the patient, and it implemented an investigation into the pharmacy’s practices. The pharmacy explained that whoever dispensed the prescription wrote down the incorrect drug name and retrieved the incorrect pills from a similar-looking bottle. The pharmacist ended up acknowledging her mistake and providing the patient with a written apology.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability case brought against the manufacturer of Zoloft, alleging that the medication causes birth defects. The court’s decision reviewed a lower court’s decision to prevent the plaintiffs’ expert witness from testifying. Ultimately, the court concluded that the lower court was proper to not allow the expert’s testimony.

GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were a class of people who collectively claimed that the medication Zoloft caused birth defects when taken early in a pregnancy. In order to establish their claim, the plaintiffs planned on presenting several witnesses to show that the ingestion of Zoloft actually caused the birth defects in their children. However, the court prevented one of the key witnesses from testifying, based on the novel method the expert used in arriving at her conclusion.

The plaintiffs then tried calling another witness in place of the one who was prevented from testifying. The drug manufacturer objected to this witness as well, and the court conducted a hearing to determine whether the expert’s testimony would be admissible.

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Chances are anyone who has followed the news over the past few months has noticed at least one serious pharmacy error occurring at either a hospital or a retail pharmacy. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that there is on average one death per day in addition to approximately 1.3 million people harmed per year by pharmacy errors. However, these statistics are only estimates because the real number of errors cannot be determined, due to discretionary reporting requirements.

White PillsAs the law stands now, pharmacies are not required to report most of the errors that their pharmacists make. While some errors come to the public’s attention due to widespread press coverage or because a pharmacy error victim files a personal injury lawsuit, many errors go unreported. Thus, the true number of pharmacy errors is unknown.

According to a recent article, our neighbors to the north in Ontario, Canada have begun to implement mandatory reporting requirements. Evidently, the change in the law was spurred on by the death of an eight-year-old boy last year. The report indicates that the boy suffered from sleeping problems and was prescribed tryptophan by his pediatrician. The boy’s mother called in the prescription and went to pick up what she thought was tryptophan, but what she was given was actually baclofen, a powerful muscle relaxer. After the boy’s death, the coroner reported that “logic would dictate that baclofen was substituted for tryptophan at the compounding pharmacy in error.”

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Pharmacy errors have been on the rise over the past few years. While there are many reasons why a pharmacist may give the wrong medication to a patient, one of the most commonly reported causes of pharmacy errors is look-alike and sound-alike drug names.

Medicine PacketsThe pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on marketing to sell medication. Once a medication is established as effective and becomes popular, other medications that perform a similar function may be released with similar-looking or -sounding names. This can create a dangerous situation when a busy pharmacist needs to fill multiple medications for drugs that all sound the same, each with its own dosing requirements and instructions.

The Government’s Efforts to Curb Pharmacy Errors

According to an article in a recent industry publication, the Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis (DMEPA) has recently ramped up its efforts to review drug labels prior to FDA approval in hopes of decreasing the total number of errors due to look-alike and sound-alike drugs.

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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.

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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Medical errors can occur in a number of situations, including by filling a prescription with the wrong pills, operating on the wrong limb, or providing medication to the wrong person. These mistakes can be devastating for patients as well as their families.

Mixed PillsIn a medical malpractice claim based on a medical error, a plaintiff has to demonstrate that the medical professional acted negligently by either engaging in a negligent act or negligently failing to take a required action. That is, a plaintiff must show that the medical provider failed to meet the applicable standard of care by failing to act in a manner in which other medical professionals would act under the circumstances.

A 74-Year-Old Grandfather Fell into a Coma After Being Given the Wrong Medication

According to one news article, a 74-year-old man went into a coma after having been given the wrong medication at a hospital. Earlier this year, the man went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms. He was diagnosed with liver cancer and admitted to the hospital. After a couple of weeks at the hospital, he was given medication that was not prescribed to him.

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