Articles Posted in Pharmacy Error

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According to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, there has been a 50% increase in the number of medication errors reported from around the country. Five years after a report by the Institute of Medicine warned that medication errors contributed to a $3.5 billion bill in medical costs, lost wages and other related expenses every year, the number of medication errors injuring people every year has not dropped, but has actually increased. This should concern any Atlanta pharmacy error lawyer.

What’s worse is that the number of medication errors could actually be higher than the report claims. The report only considered those mistakes that left people ill enough to rush to a hospital or emergency room.

According to the study, most cases of medication errors are related to the use of corticosteroids. These are followed by cancer drugs, hypertension drugs, cardiac medications and blood thinners. Elderly persons above the age of 65 are more susceptible to medication errors. Teenagers and children are also at a higher risk of medication errors than adults. About one in every five patients who suffer from medication errors, is a teenager or a child. People older than 65 were most likely to be hospitalized for side effects or medication-related injuries. However, young people were also at risk. One in five emergency cases related to medication problems were children or teenagers.
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Patients in Atlanta hospitals can be given any number of drug combinations to deal with multiple issues. Some medications, safe and effective alone, can have dangerous consequences as drug combinations. Also, an important area of Medical Malpractice is plain pharmacy error. Sometimes pharmacists put the wrong pills in the bottle. Other times, the prescription is written wrong by the prescribing doctor and then filled by the pharmacist who did not catch the mistake. Obviously, this can also have disastrous consequences.

News RX reports that a study released in the Critical Care Medicine Journal has found including an on-ward pharmacist on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) team significantly reduced prescription error and related patient harms. The study was instituted by J.E. Klopotowska of the University of New Amsterdam. As an Atlanta pharmacy error lawyer, I can see the direct benefits that can be derived from having a pharmacist in the ICU or ER areas. After all, the most common caused of medical malpractice and pharmacy error is a lack of communication between the different providers who are rendering care to the patient. In this particular case, the lack of proper communication (and double-checking that is often essential to the correct care) between the prescribing doctor and the pharmacist that fills the prescription, leads to dangerous consequences in the form of prescription error. Some of these errors are harmless, while others can be deadly.
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On Friday, the FDA announced that the maker of Darvon (and the similar drug, Darvocet) has voluntarily stopped all marketing of the drugs in the United States. Both drugs have been accused of causing deadly side-effects for decades. The reason for the current recall: A cardiac study conducted by the manufacturer at the FDA’s bequest showed that Darvon caused irregular heart rhythms. In other words, the doses of Darvon and Darvocet normally prescribed by doctors and taken by patients is harmful to the heart. Couple this with the unacceptable propensity of patients to abuse the drug (i.e., taking more than the prescribed amount) and the risk of heart damage is simply too great to keep the drug on the market.

This recall follows bans in England and the European Union based on a different reason: The long-held belief that the use of Darvon and Darvocet lead to unacceptable risks of suicides and overdoses. Many safety advocates in the U.S. have been calling for the ban of these drugs since at least 1978, but the FDA has refused until now.
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Every year, approximately 100,000 people are killed from prescription errors. We lose many fewer people to highway accidents every year, and yet, there is far more federal money spent in preventing highway traffic fatalities.

Eliminating human error from the doctor-pharmacist-patient chain may be hard, but not impossible. In the meantime, there are steps that you can take to prevent the 10 most common prescription errors.

According to Caring.com, the 10 most common prescription errors are:
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A study published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics says that Spanish-speaking people in the United States are a higher risk of injury from prescription errors, because of poor translation. These errors are occurring in large numbers, because the computer programs that pharmacies rely on to translate prescriptions, are vastly inadequate.

The researchers surveyed several pharmacies. They found that four out of every five pharmacies, depended on computers to translate prescriptions. Almost all of them claimed that they got the prescriptions re-checked manually, but the researchers found far too many errors in translation. The likely take-away: relying on a computer program to translate prescriptions is inadequate, at best, and in many cases constitutes malpractice. Couple that with the reality that too many pharmacists are over-worked and simply do not have time to double-check the computer. The fact that these errors are taking place is proof that, even though they claim to be manually re-checking computer translated prescriptions, these pharmacists are actually re-checking the prescriptions.
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Atlanta pharmacies are subject to regulation by the Georgia Board of Pharmacy. As an experienced Georgia injury lawyer, I have handled a number of prescription misfill cases that have resolved successfully. Today, I will break down the basics of a pharmacy malpractice case in Georgia so that anyone who is the victim of a prescription error will have a better understanding of the elements of these cases.

What is the basis for a Georgia Pharmacy Malpractice claim? Under the requirements of the Georgia Board of Pharmacy, a pharmacist must be trained as to the proper dosage of drugs, and has available to her the same texts and references as those utilized by doctors. These references clearly cover potential drug interactions, side effects and warnings for each drug.

What is the pharmacist’s duty? A pharmacist is responsible for inspecting and interpreting prescriptions and to consult with the prescriber (the doctor) if there is any doubt as to the prescription. Potential doubt includes not being certain about which medication is being prescribed, what the proper dose is, how often the drug should be taken or applied, and whether this particular patient should not be prescribed the medication due to an allergy or contraindication with another drug that the patient is currently taking. Any doubt should be resolved by the pharmacist communicating with the doctor to ascertain this information.

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On March 4, 2009, the Supreme Court upheld a $6.7 million award to a woman whose arm had to be amputated due to complications she suffered after being injected with the popular anti-nausea drug, Phenergan. The woman was injected with the drug to combat nausea related to migraine headaches and subsequently lost her arm after gangrene set in. Although the drug was supposed to go into her vein, the needle accidentally struck an artery, which allowed a greater amount of the Phenergan to enter her body of a short period of time.

Prior to the injuries she suffered from the Phenegren complication, Levine was a professional guitarist and pianist. Once she contracted gangrene, doctors were forced to amputate her hand and forearm and her music career was ended.Read Full Supreme Court Opinion.

The importance of this decision cannot be stressed enough for the citizens of Georgia who have suffered personal injuries or death due to unsafe drugs. One of Governor Sonny Perdue’s stated top priorities was to insulate drug companies from Georgia State Court suits based on the theory argued by the drug company in the Wyeth v. Levine lawsuit, i.e., that since the FDA approved the drug, state court actions are preempted. Fortunately, the Supreme Court rejected this argument and it is not the law in Georgia. While it is not a complete defense to personal injury lawsuits, or in other words, a basis for summary judgment in Georgia, drug manufacturers and other defendants who have been sued for using an unreasonably dangerous drug do raise the defense to the jury. In these cases, the defendant’s argue that it is perfectly reasonable to use a drug since it has been approved by the FDA, and the doctor should not have to do any further investigation into the drug’s safety, other than to check to make sure it is approved by the FDA.