Orlando Pharmacy Malpractice Attorneys
Medications are an everyday part of our lives both over the counter and dispensed by a licensed pharmacy. Modern medicine and pharmacology have developed many wonder drugs that can treat and cure many serious diseases and conditions.
However, we depend on pharmacies and their employees to properly fill our prescriptions and often have no idea whether they have done their job properly. This can lead to injury, or worse, and fall under pharmacy malpractice.
Mistakes in filling prescriptions take various forms—incorrect dosing, incorrect medications, incorrect instructions, contraindications, and multiple drug interactions. The results can be catastrophic.
Medical malpractice in the case of a pharmacist often occurs from simple carelessness or a thoughtless action, but it may also result from forgetfulness, ignorance or simply bad judgment.
According to a report in the Pharmacy Times, medication errors are a leading cause of mortality in the U.S. Dispensing errors account for 21 percent of all medication errors. These dispensing errors include inconsistencies or deviations from the prescription including the wrong drug, the wrong dosage or bad labeling. Other causes include drug-drug interactions, abuse, overuse, underuse, failure to receive a drug warning, drug allergies interactions, therapeutic duplication, and incorrect drug dosage or duration of treatment
According to a report from Pharmacists Mutual here are the most common types of pharmacy negligence:
Since 1990, the number of “wrong drugs” administered has remained relatively consistent, although the reasons for these errors appear varied. In one case, the pharmacist took a prescription over the phone from a doctor’s office for digoxin. The pharmacist prepared the label, counted the correct drug into the tray, and then poured it into the bottle. As he placed the bottle next to the completed label, the phone rang again, with a request for warfarin. The pharmacist filled the prescription for warfarin in the same manner, but somehow the two labels were mixed up. The warfarin bottle received the digoxin label and was given to the wrong patient.
THE “LOOK ALIKE” DRUG NAME PROBLEM
Sometimes drug names look alike. For example, prescriptions for Navane can be mistaken for Norvasc, Prilosec for Prozac, Lasix for Losec. Interestingly, the Lasix/Losec error precipitated a name change by the Losec manufacturer (it was renamed Prilosec). After that, Prilosec and Prozac began to be mistakenly dispensed in place of one another. This problem occurs so frequently that a special committee of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) has been formed to look at the selection of new drug names. There is an evolving science in understanding and preventing this error of fine distinction.
WRONG DRUG STRENGTH: ANOTHER COMMON ERROR
The second largest category of claims (25.1%) shown in the Pharmacists Mutual study is “wrong strength.” A common example would be receiving a prescription for digoxin 0.125 mg, and filling it in error with digoxin 0.25 mg. In fact, misplacement of a decimal point is a very common way these errors occur. Another error is picking up the wrong bottle when filling the prescription. Perhaps the drug is correct, but the dosage is wrong. Depending upon the drug prescribed, the results of selecting the wrong strength can be dangerous, even fatal. Another common outcome is a lack of efficacy. For example, if too low a dose of an anticoagulant (such as Coumadin) is administered, it could fail to prevent a fatal clot.
At 7.5% of all claims, “wrong directions” represents a significant number of the claims reported in the Pharmacists Mutual study. These cases involve incorrectly entering the directions into the computer. For example, in one case a pharmacist entered a new prescription for birth-control tablets into the computer and inadvertently typed, “Take two tablets daily.” For 9 months, this patient refilled her birth-control prescription every 15 days while following the erroneous label directions, apparently without anyone at the pharmacy noticing the discrepancy. The most dangerous “wrong directions” claims are for children’s prescriptions (and especially prescriptions for children under the age of 6 years).
LACK OF DRUG REVIEW
OBRA-90 (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) required pharmacists to review all prescriptions prior to filling them—checking for interactions, allergies, and a list of other potential problems. Especially because pharmacy technicians are increasingly being used to reduce the pharmacist’s workload, this area of claims—previously almost unheard of—now represents over 7% of all claims.
COUNSELING: A POWERFUL WEAPON AGAINST LIABILITY
Progressive pharmacy companies make it a standard business practice to actually counsel each patient on every new prescription, instead of merely offering a perfunctory option to the patient of obtaining counseling if they have any questions for the pharmacist. (Rather than actually requiring counseling, OBRA requires that the pharmacist offer to counsel the patient.) With critical-care drugs, failure to counsel leads to predictable and serious problems. Inadequate or incomplete counseling—as well as lack of documentation or proof of counseling—are omissions that can indicate that the pharmacist is providing a lower-than- standard level of care. The patient cannot be expected to understand everything in the patient package insert without professional advice and guidance from the pharmacist.
“Personal injury” is an insurance and legal term. These types of claims are also referred to as “non-bodily injury” claims. These claims involve libel, slander, false arrest, and/or unauthorized release of confidential records. Unauthorized release of confidential records accounts for approximately one-half of these types of claims. This is another fast-growing area of professional liability claims against pharmacists. These claims usually involve the pharmacist or technician but may involve any employee in the pharmacy or hospital.
OTHER (MISCELLANEOUS) ERRORS
At the end of the list of medication errors reported by Pharmacists Mutual is a category for “other.” This category may include several types of miscellaneous errors responsible for a significant number of claims.
Each prescription leaving any pharmacy in Maitland, Altamonte Springs, Orlando, Casselberry, Lake Mary, Winter Park, Apopka, Oviedo or any other Central Florida community must be signed off by a licensed pharmacist, but the actual preparation and filling of the prescription is often completed by a pharmacy technician. These techs usually have very minimal training and no specialized knowledge about pharmacy. Oftentimes, they are high school graduates who have taken a certification course.
Mistakes happen, and people are injured when mistakes are made with prescription medications and pharmacists and pharmacies are lax in their oversight of their technicians. Unfortunately, we are at their mercy when it comes to our medications, as we have little information to determine if we have been provided the correct medication in the correct dosage, with the correct instructions for taking the medication.
When to Seek Help From an Orlando Pharmacy Malpractice Lawyer
The Orlando pharmacy malpractice lawyers at Warner & Warner have extensive experience in pursuing and proving pharmacy malpractice and Florida medication errors. If you suspect a medication error injured you or a loved one, we would be glad to speak with you about your concerns.