Articles Posted in Pharmacy/Prescription Errors

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With the generic pharmaceutical industry growing and taking over nearly 90% of market share, the same medications may look different depending on what pharmacy you choose you to fill your prescription. Further, our Miami personal injury lawyers know that many prescriptions have very similar names. As humans, we all make mistakes, but when a pharmacist makes a mistake, the consequences could leave you or a loved one very ill, or could even end your life. Pharmacists are held to a higher standard as healthcare providers, so they need to be especially cautious and detail-oriented when dispensing the medicine you take. After all, the pharmacist knows more than you do about the medication, and you put your trust in your pharmacist to ensure you are getting the medication that has been prescribed to you and in the correct dosage – not the wrong medication that could harm you.

A Florida Family’s Close Brush With Death

In early 2012, a mother shared her son’s story to West Palm Beach’s News Channel 5 regarding her son’s experience with a potentially life-threatening medication. This mother and her son were both lucky because the mother diligently examined the medication that was dispensed to her son. Her son has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and is prescribed the medication “Intuniv” by his physician to treat the condition.
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According to thespec.com, Ontario’s cancer care agency has discovered that about 1,000 patients being treated with chemotherapy last year were given a watered-down treatment that contained a lower dose of the medication than was originally prescribed. These patients were being treated for diseases that included breast, lung and bladder cancers.

The medication was prepared by a Hamilton, Ontario company, Marchese Hospital Solutions, and consists of a premixed cocktail of different medications dissolved in a saline solution. A pharmacy technician at one of the five Canadian hospitals where the medication was shipped discovered that the doses had too high a percentage of saline solution, therefore diluting the chemotherapy medication. Company officials are cooperating with the government’s investigation.

Patients May Have Died Because of Error

One of the Hospitals where the incorrect doses were administered has reported that seventeen patients have died since beginning their therapy. David Musyj, President and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital, where the seventeen patients died, said that it may be impossible to determine whether the diluted medication contributed to the patient’s deaths or not. The discovery of the “bad medication” will not make it less painful for the surviving relatives. All hospitals are currently contacting the surviving patients and the families of the deceased patients to inform them of the problem.

One of the seventeen patients who passed away was 27-year-old Crystal Giegerich, who died in February. Mrs. Giegerich was six months pregnant when diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in the fall of 2011. The baby was delivered prematurely at seven months so that she could undergo chemotherapy. Her husband, a pharmacist with 23 years of experience himself, is still waiting to hear from the hospital, but would like to hear whether his wife was one of those patients who received the diluted medication.

Diluted Medications

The diluted portions of the medication cocktail were cyclophosphamide, a medication commonly used to fight breast cancer and some types of leukemia and lymphoma, and gemcitabine, used to fight lung and bladder cancers. Both were diluter up to 20 percent. These two medications are typically combined with three other compounds to make “a cocktail.”

Pharmacy Errors Happen Anywhere

In our experience, pharmacy errors like those described above are not limited to Canadian hospitals. Our firm has successfully represented dozens of clients that have been harmed by erroneous doses and/or have been given the wrong medications by their pharmacist.

For example, we represented a 28-year-old Miami woman who was given another patient’s medication as she recovered from complications following pregnancy. The wrong drug, known as Finasteride or Propecia, was administered to our client for about three weeks by the local store of a national pharmacy chain. Men typically use this medication to fight hair loss and prostate problems. Moreover, women are specifically warned not to take or even handle this drug. It was only when the client felt ill, that the discovery of the error came to light.

Also, we are currently representing a nine-year-old boy that had to needlessly go through months of nausea, vomiting, headaches and fatigue because his pharmacist was so ignorant and arrogant to cross off the medication originally prescribed by the boy’s doctor and filled the prescription with “Rifampin” instead. The boy is suffering from inactive tuberculosis, for which his doctor correctly prescribed INH. Rifampin, the medication “prescribed” by his pharmacist is a medication specifically for cases of active tuberculosis.
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A jury in New Orleans has found pharmacy giant Walgreens liable for the stroke suffered by a woman due to a prescription error made by its employees. The woman has been awarded $1 million in damages. According to nola.com, a Walgreens pharmacy gave her anti-psychotic pills instead of her high blood pressure medication, causing her to suffer a stroke more than five years ago. Walgreens never denied that its employees made the mistake.

Walgreen Challenged Cause of Stroke

However, the attorneys representing Walgreens did question that a single pill of Zyprexa could have caused Peggy Williams, the medication error victim, a stroke. Moreover, Walgreens’ attorneys had argued that Ms. Williams was not taking her high blood pressure medication as regularly as she should have and that such omission, and not the mistake Walgreens mad in giving her the wrong medication caused the stroke.

Although the jury did not agree with the assertions made by Walgreens’ lawyers, they did find some negligence on the part of Ms. William and her son, finding that they should have caught the mistake because although the bottle was placed in a Walgreens prescription bag with Ms. Williams name on it, the bottle was labeled Zyprexa, a man’s medication. Ms. Williams’ attorneys pointed out that the pills that the victim was supposed to get and those incorrectly given to her, looked somewhat alike (depending on the dosage), but this argument was not enough to sway the jury’s finding of negligence by their client.

How the Pharmacy Error Happened

On June 10, 2006, Derrick Williams, the son of the victim of this pharmacy error, went to the local Walgreens store to pick up Ms. Williams’ Toprol prescription. The pharmacy employee gave him a bottle of a man’s Zyprexa, a medication used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. As stated before, the bottle of Zyprexa was placed inside a Walgreens prescription bag with the victim’s name on it.

Ms. Williams claimed that after taking one pill of Zyprexa she started feeling week on her left side. She went to the local hospital’s emergency room and was sent home a few hours later with order to rest. The following day she still did not feel well and thinking she was having a heart attack, she went to see her primary care physician at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. Her doctor ordered an MRI that showed she had suffered a stroke.

Despite undergoing psychological counseling and years of physical therapy, the weakness on Ms. Williams’ left side persists, causing her stability to be off and for her to be prone to falls. This prevents Ms. Williams from traveling and from playing with her grandchildren. In other words, her condition prevents her from enjoying life as she used to.

The jury found that Walgreens was sixty percent liable, Ms. Williams 35 percent and Derrick Williams 5 percent. It is worth noting that Zyprexa was an important part of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department against the manufacturer of the pill, Eli Lilly. In 2009 the company pleaded guilty to illegally marketing the pill and paid the government $1,415 billion as part of the settlement. The judge in Ms. williams case did not allow her lawyers to use the preceding information about Zyprexa’s previous legal tribulations because he deemed it irrelevant to this case.

Our Own Pharmacy Errors Experiences

In a similar case, the lawyers of Greenberg Stone and Urbano represented a 28-year-old Miami woman recovering from pregnancy complications was given another patient’s medication by a national pharmacy chain. Our client took the wrong medication for about three weeks. This medication, Finasteride or Propecia, is a drug that men use to fight baldness and prostate problems and women are specifically warned not to take or even handle it. As a result of taking the wrongly dispensed medication, our client was injured. We successfully handled her claim as we have many, many others.

In another case handled by the lawyers of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, our client, a single mother suffering from a minor stroke due to her chronic low blood pressure, was mistakenly given by a medication to lower her blood pressure, instead of the medication prescribed by her doctor which was intended to raise her blood pressure. This negligent mistake by a Boca Raton pharmacist further complicated her recovery. Again, we were successful in bringing a claim for damages.
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A recent study in Canada suggests that the heavy workload of nurses, as well as distraction and poor communication are the most common causes of medication errors with children in hospitals. Moreover, the study suggests that the use of drugs approved for adults in children is a serious problem. Given a child’s unique physiology, especially their weight, a mistake administering these drugs originally formulated for adult physiology can have deadly implications.

According to cbc.ca, a team from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, led by Assistant Professor Kim Sears, anonymously surveyed nurses at hospitals affiliated with universities across the country and found that at least four young patients had died after a medication error during the three month study period. The study showed that 372 prescription errors were reported, including 127 cases where the error was caught before the wrong drug was administered. The most common errors were giving children the medication at the wrong time; giving them the wrong dosage; and giving them the wrong medication.

Standardized Approach for Preparing Medications

According to Professor Sears administering medication to children is largely based on the child’s weight. The study revealed that different hospital wards use different mathematical calculations to determine the right medication dosage. Professor Sears recommended the creation of a standardized approach to this process. Her study also showed that nurses often have to prepare the medications for their child-patients in a cluttered environment, one where they may be interrupted, such as someone mopping the floor or other patients, their relatives or other visitors asking questions and thus, distracting the nurse.

Sears recommends that the areas where nurses are to prepare medications should be well lit and clutter free, so that nurses are not distracted while preparing the medications for their patients.

Similar Things Happen At Pharmacies

Similar mistakes are made by pharmacists all over our State and country. Much like nurses within a hospital environment, pharmacists get distracted by customers asking questions while the pharmacist is preparing medications, causing them to make mistakes that can be deadly. In addition, many pharmacies are simply understaffed, and the pharmacists overworked. They don’t have the time to carefully check their work or the work of the pharmacy techs. As mentioned before, our firm has handled dozens of cases where mistakes in prescriptions have been made.

For example, we represented a 28-year-old Miami woman who was given a drug for men’s hair loss and/or prostate problems called Finasteride or Propecia at a large national pharmacy chain. Women are specifically warned not to take or even handle this medication and she took it for approximately three weeks while recovering from complications in her pregnancy, suffering significant negative side effects. In a very similar case involving the same medication, another client who had suffered the stillbirth of her child was mistakenly given Finasteride which had been prescribed for another patient, just because she shared the same last name of this other patient.

We also handled a case where a pharmacist’s ignorance about what medication should be used for active and inactive tuberculosis. The mistake caused a child to needlessly suffer from nausea, vomiting, headaches and fatigues for months. Both forms of the disease are treated with different medications, yet the pharmacist crossed out a prescription for INH given by a doctor to a nine-year-old boy with the inactive form of the disease, and instead gave the child “Rifampin,” a drug given to patients with active tuberculosis.

Please visit the Notable Cases Section of our website to learn more about these and other relevant cases.
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According to inquisitr.com, separate studies recently performed in Canadian hospitals showed that medication errors are far more common than previously believed and that they include a variety of cases that go from mix-up of drugs to wrong drug interactions.

Medication Error

A medication error by a doctor or pharmacist occurs when a patient is given the wrong dosage of a medication or when the patient is given the wrong medication for his or her condition. Of course, a patient can make a medication error when he or she uses expired drugs, or does not adhere to a drug-taking schedule, or is not aware of adverse drug, dietary, and allergic interactions. Medication errors often have life-threatening consequences.

There are many causes for medication errors. For example, they can occur because the pharmacist may have trouble reading the doctor’s handwritten notes or get confused about different drugs with similar names or misunderstand the dosage. Many errors occur when the prescription is entered into the pharmacy’s computer system, especially by a non-pharmacist assistant, incorrectly. A medication error can also occur when a physician, nurse or pharmacist fail to explain to the patient how a drug interacts with other medications or foods, or when the physician fails to gather all necessary information about a patient’s drug history, diets or allergies before prescribing a drug. That is one reason why it is good idea to have all your medications filled at the same pharmacy, as pharmacists are supposed to be trained to pick up on such interactions.

Medication Errors Occur Quite Often

As stated before, a recent studies performed at Canadian hospitals found that medication errors occur often, sometimes with deadly results. For example, one of the studies showed that 20 drug-administration errors occurred by ward and although the majority of issues were related to mix-ups and near misses, 14 percent had lethal results. That’s an incredible and scary percentage!

Similarly, another Canadian study found that close to 10 percent of child patients in 22 hospitals had been victims of medication errors. The study also showed that given their unique physiology and developmental needs, children are very vulnerable to medication errors. This second study showed that 22 percent of the adverse drug events found were preventable, while 17.8 percent could have been identified earlier and 16.8 percent could have been treated more effectively.

Not Only in Canada

Of course, medication errors do not occur only with children or in Canada. Dr. Leora Horwitz, a doctor from Yale-New Haven Hospital, recently admitted in an interview that “every physician can tell you about these kinds of errors. We do a relatively poor job of educating patients about their medications.”

Also, we may add, these errors are not made only by medical doctors. As stated before, pharmacists make them quite often….In fact, our firm has represented many clients in cases were national pharmacy chains as well as local pharmacies have made harmful errors affecting them.

For example, in one case our client, a woman that had suffered a minor stroke, was prescribed a medication by her doctors to raise her blood pressure. The pharmacy mistakenly gave her medication to lower her blood pressure, something that further complicated her recovery. We were successful in getting her a monetary award.

In another case we represented a pregnant woman who was mistakenly given Propecia, the prostate medication of another patient. Women are specifically warned not to take or even handle this medication. As a consequence of this mistake our client suffered adverse effects. Again, we obtained a monetary award for her only after we and the client were satisfied that any and all possible temporary or lasting side effects of the error were investigated, understood and compensated for.

Please visit our Notable Cases pages to learn more about other pharmaceutical error cases we have handled.
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A Boca Raton CVS continues to make prescrption errors after being featured on local news outlets in 2009. The prescription errors are happening at an alarming rate this busy Palm Beach County pharmacy.

A Boca Raton woman was recently negligently given a prescrition for another customer. The CVS gave her a medication which is prescribed for those with high blood pressure. The woman’s doctor had not prescribed this medication, as she did not have high blood pressure. The prescription error was discovered after she took the medication for almost one month. She is currently under her doctor’s care and is contemplating litigation.

The CVS is located at 7016 Bera Casa Way in Boca Raton and was in the news after Palm Beach County Prescription Error Attorneys Greenberg, Stone & Urbano represented two Boca Raton women injured by pharmacy errors in 2009.
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