Maryland pharmacy errors can lead to severe consequences for patients. Because prescription medications are often vital to a patient’s health and well being, pharmacy safety must be taken very seriously. When a pharmacy error occurs, patients may get sick or become injured, either because they took the wrong medication that was bad for them or because they did not take the correct medication that they actually needed. In some tragic cases, the error may even lead to death—highlighting the need for pharmacists and pharmacies to follow all safety protocols when filling prescriptions.

For example, a recent transcription error by a pharmacy technician taking medication orders over the phone led to a female patient’s death and a personal injury lawsuit seeking significant monetary damages. According to a report of the case by Pharmacy Times, a female patient was hospitalized for fluid buildup in her lungs. When it came time for her to be discharged, a nurse at the hospital called in her prescriptions at a local pharmacy. The call was being taken by a pharmacy technician, who made numerous transcription errors, misspelling the names of several medications and the name of the nurse, and recording an incorrect birth date for the patient. In addition, they made an error related to the dosage of the inhaler being prescribed (recording a dosage 10 times the correct amount).

Most significantly, the technician mis-recorded the daily dosage of methotrexate instead of the metolazone that was intended. The pharmacist on duty at the time approved the prescription, not realizing the error. But at trial, he testified that the dosage being prescribed would be safe for a patient once or twice per week, not on a daily basis. When the patient’s husband picked up the medication, he was provided no further counseling even though guidance and experts recommend counseling should be provided with new drugs, particularly high-alert ones like methotrexate. The patient, unfortunately, died as a result of the pharmacy error.

Most Maryland residents find themselves visiting a pharmacy at one point or another. Medications—whether continual or short-term—are a big part of many people’s health and well-being. And ideally, pharmacists and pharmacies help to keep Maryland patients safe and healthy. But sometimes mistakes are made, and these pharmacy errors can cause significant harm to patients. In fact, Maryland pharmacy errors are more common than most people think and can happen to anyone. Recently, however, the Pharmacy Times published an online article about how specialty pharmacists play an important role in increasing patient safety.

Specialty pharmacies, according to the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, are distinct from traditional pharmacies and are designed to efficiently deliver medications that have special handling, storage, and distribution requirements. They are also designed to improve outcomes for patients that have complex, potentially chronic and rare conditions. Typically, patients taking specialty medications require more complex services than those required for a traditional drug, and so specialty pharmacists step in to meet those needs.

According to the Pharmacy Times, specialty pharmacists have a unique role in medication safety. Not only do they take responsibility for ensuring the safe and effective use of specialty medications, but they also play a strong role in promoting a positive safety culture within their specific pharmacy. One of the factors pointed towards as causing pharmacy errors is the culture within the pharmacy. Oftentimes, pharmacists are overworked, hurried, and stressed out, and they may sacrifice safety for speed or fail to engage in regular safety precautions. The Pharmacy Times reports that because specialty pharmacists, working with high-risk specialty medications, often incorporate robust programs to ensure proper medication usage and minimize the potential for error, can be really helpful in setting the tone and expectation for safety in typical pharmacy settings. Additionally, specialty pharmacists can encourage the actual reporting of errors within pharmacies when they do happen, which is critical for addressing the root cause of the problem and making sure the same errors do not continue to happen.

Medication errors occur all too frequently in the United States. They account for thousands of deaths each year throughout the country. They may be the result of negligent acts, such as failing to follow proper procedures, failing to communicate necessary information, and failing to verify the patient’s information, including any allergies. In a Maryland medication error case alleging negligence, a medication error victim must prove that the defendant owed the victim a duty by exercising a certain degree of care toward the victim, the defendant failed to meet the requisite standard of care, the victim suffered injuries, and the defendant’s conduct caused the victim’s injuries.

Medication errors can involve the improper administration of a vaccine. According to an analysis conducted by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices of reported vaccine errors in 2017, the majority of errors involved administration of the wrong vaccine. Other errors included expired vaccines, the wrong dose, the wrong age, the wrong timing, the wrong patient, the wrong route, and a component/vaccine omission. In some cases, a vaccine error may simply negate the effect of the vaccine, but other errors may cause injury and even death.

Victims of vaccine errors or other medication errors may be able to recover compensation for their injuries by filing a Maryland negligence claim. Victims often need an expert to testify to prove their case by establishing a link between the medical error and the victim’s injuries. Experts may also be able to testify concerning whether an error was made and who was at fault. Generally, a Maryland negligence claim must be filed within three years of the date of the victim’s injury. Plaintiffs in medication error cases may be entitled to recover financial compensation for medical bills, physical therapy, future medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, lost wages, and other damages.

Each year, medicine and technology get more and more advanced, leading to improvements in the quality and delivery of health care across the country. Despite these improvements, however, errors still occur in health care delivery, particularly regarding pharmacy and medication. In fact, Maryland pharmacy errors occur frequently, jeopardizing the health and well-being of patients. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is a nonprofit organization that works closely with health care practitioners, institutions, regulatory agencies, professional organizations, and the pharmaceutical industry to create awareness of and provide education about medication errors and how to prevent them.

Every other week, ISMP produces a newsletter with timely information related to pharmacy error prevention. Looking at the newsletters from January 2020 through December 2020 provides important insight into the trends seen in pharmacy errors last year. Pharmacy Practice News recently provided a summary of these newsletters on their website.

In the Pharmacy Practice News summary, several key problem areas were identified. One was safety issues related to labeling, packaging, and nomenclature. For example, a pharmacist might mix-up two different medications that have similar labeling or names, giving the wrong one to the patient. Another area of concern was safety issues associated with order communication and documentation. For example, health officials searching for drugs by generic names and accidentally substituting non-substitutable drugs. Finally, there are problems involving drug information, patient information, patient education, and staff education. For example, two patients mixed up their insulin pens which looked alike but with different labels and manufacturers, meaning they gave themselves the wrong insulin, leading to hyperglycemia.

Victims of Maryland medication errors may be dealing with the stress of the injury, medical bills, and wage losses—and filing a Maryland medication error lawsuit may not be at the forefront of their minds. However, victims have to be careful not to wait too long, because it could be too late.

The statute of limitations dictates the time in which any claim must be filed in Maryland. Failure to file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations generally will result in the claim being dismissed, though there are some exceptions. Generally, the statute of limitations for a medication error claim in Maryland (and other personal injury claims) is three years. Wrongful death claims also have a statute of limitations of three years. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of case and there may be exceptions in some cases. The statutes of limitations also can change if there is a change in the law so it is important to meet with an experienced medication error attorney who understands the statute of limitations that applies in a specific case.

The statute of limitations generally begins to run when an injury occurs, though it may start to run later in some cases. An experienced medication error attorney can help medication error victims properly file a claim within the applicable statute of limitations.

While the COVID-19 pandemic was understandably the most reported and challenging topic in medicine and healthcare during 2020 (and maybe for 2021, as well), it is important to remember that Maryland pharmacy errors—both COVID-19 related and not—have continued to occur with alarming rates.

Pharmacy errors occur when some mistake is made between the time a prescription is written and the time a patient takes the medication. These errors can come in many different forms. For example, the pharmacist may provide a patient with the wrong medicine or the incorrect dose.

Now that 2020 has come to an end, reflection on the mistakes of the past year is possible. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) recently released a list of the Top 10 medication errors and hazards that occurred in 2020. Factors influencing the list include frequency of problems, the significance of the consequences to patients, and the potential for the errors to be avoided or minimized. ISMP recommends that these ten errors be top priorities in the new year.

In the tragic event of a death after a medication error, the family of a Maryland medication error victim may be able to file a wrongful death claim against those responsible. Maryland’s wrongful death statute generally allows for a claim to be filed by a spouse, parent, or child of the victim. If no spouse, parent, or child exists who may file a wrongful death claim, another person may file who was related to the victim by blood or marriage “who was substantially dependent upon the deceased.” Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act is intended to provide an avenue for family members of the victim to recover compensation for their losses by allowing them to recover for acts that would have entitled the victim to recover compensation if the victim had not died.

In wrongful death claims, the defendant or defendants may blame the victim or argue that the medication error did not cause the death. Just as in Maryland negligence cases, if the victim survives, a wrongful death claim can be barred if the decedent is found to be partially at fault for the error. A defendant may also argue that another medical condition or factor caused the person’s death. The plaintiff has the burden of proving all the elements of the case by a preponderance of the evidence. A wrongful death claim generally must be filed in Maryland within three years of the victim’s death.

Cases Reported of Drug Mix-ups During Spinal Injections

Three cases of accidental spinal injection of tranexamic acid were recently reported on by one news source. The tranexamic acid was reportedly used instead of a local anesthetic because the wrong container was used by accident. In one case, an anesthesiologist used tranexamic acid instead of bupivacaine and recognized the error right away, but the patient had already begun to experience seizures. In another case, the patient again received tranexamic acid instead of bupivacaine and experienced seizures, and was placed into an induced coma for several days. In the last case, the patient received tranexamic acid instead of a local anesthetic but also experienced seizures and extreme pain. Tranexamic acid given in the spine in place of anesthetic can be extremely harmful and has a mortality rate of about 50%. Survivors may experience paraplegia, seizures, ventricular fibrillation, and permanent neurological injury.

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Vaccines are life-saving substances that can provide children and adults with protection against many serious diseases and illnesses. However, in some cases, errors or unintended side-effects can occur, leaving individuals with injuries or illnesses. If an adult or child suffers an injury following medication or vaccine, they may file a Maryland pharmaceutical error lawsuit.

The United States generally maintains the most effective and safe supply of vaccines and medications. In most cases, side effects of a vaccine are temporary and mild; however, patients may develop serious side effects in some cases. Some common vaccine injuries are severe allergic reactions, drug interaction injuries, unlisted side effects, seizures, and wrongful death. Proving that the actual vaccine caused an injury can be complicated; however, there are situations where administration or dosage may cause the victim’s injuries.

For example, recently, national news reports revealed that health officials inadvertently gave 42 people the Regeneron IV Covid treatment, instead of the Covid-19 immunization. The National Guard stated that the individuals were given the treatment intravenously at a vaccination clinic. All of the individuals who received the antibody treatment instead of the immunization have been contacted. Health officials explained that they do not believe that the patients face any risk of harm from the error. However, the Health Department is working with the National Guard to review its policies and procedures.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted millions of lives across the world, nation, and the state of Maryland, but fortunately, vaccines are currently being distributed. As of January 15th of this year, approximately 12.2 million individuals have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While the vaccine is a good thing and a sign of hope to many, its distribution is vulnerable to errors, just like any medication or drug. Pharmacy and medication errors do happen in Maryland, and so there is potential for vaccine errors as the state rolls out the vaccine as well.

Fortunately, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) recently provided safe practice recommendations for administering COVID-19 vaccines, following several reports of errors. There are two main types of reported errors that affect patients: dilution errors and mix-ups with look-alike products. First, the Pfizer vaccine must be diluted with a preservative-free sodium chloride injection. Unfortunately, multiple errors have occurred in the dilution, with too little diluent added and patients having too much of the vaccine administered. These errors can potentially lead to potentially stronger adverse effects for patients. Second, Moderna’s vaccine has been confused by some with the new Regeneron monoclonal antibody casirivimab, likely due to labeling issues and the fact that they look alike. It is reported that two versions of vial and carton labels for the Regeneron antibody exist, but neither includes the name of the specific antibody or has a functioning barcode. These mix-ups could result in patients receiving the wrong drug.

To reduce the risk of errors, ISMP offered several recommendations for health care organizations. These recommendations include safely selecting vaccination sites, verifying the competency of the vaccinators, dispensing pharmacy-prepared syringes, identifying and differentiating monoclonal antibodies, separating different vaccines when storing them, and preparing for allergic reactions. Hopefully, these recommendations can prevent future vaccinations from occurring. However, recommendations have been made in the past to prevent common pharmacy errors that occur in Maryland every day, and yet they unfortunately still happen. It is important that those who may be injured as a result of those errors understand that state law may provide them a remedy through a personal injury lawsuit. If they are interested in filing one, they should begin by reaching out to a pharmacy error attorney who handles these matters.

Although the COVID-19 is generally accepted to be safe, some people may still have adverse reactions to the vaccine. Like all vaccines, the vaccine still carries some risk of a Maryland medication error. The vaccine may have adverse side effects. It also will not be 100% effective for everyone, and it is unclear how long immunity will last.

The federal government granted companies immunity from liability for the development and administration of vaccines unless there is “willful misconduct” on the part of the companies making and distributing the vaccines. Pharmacists in Maryland are allowed to administer vaccines, and the federal government has declared pharmacists as covered under the emergency preparedness act allowing them to administer the vaccine without risk of liability. Yet pharmacists must also follow the federal government’s guidance to qualify for protection. Pharmacists must complete required training, administer an FDA-approved vaccine, administer according to the vaccination schedule, and follow record-keeping and reporting requirements.

Thus, in limited circumstances, injured patients may be able to recover compensation for their injuries. Victims of medical malpractice may be able to recover compensation if they prove that a healthcare professional failed to meet the standard of care in providing care to the patient by negligently acting or failing to act in some way.

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