Medication Errors on the Rise

Medication Errors on the Rise

The number of people visiting hospitals as a result of medication errors has increased by about fifty percent over the past five years. The rise of mistakes in prescribing and administering drugs, whether by a medical professional, caregiver, or patient, is a growing cause for concern in the medical community. Medication errors range from wrong dosing to adverse interactions with other drugs. Many times, communication between medical practitioners, pharmacists, and patients plays a large role in these errors. Of the 92 percent of patients hospitalized for medication side effects or allergic reactions, approximately seven percent had taken or were given the wrong drug or dose. Overdosing can cause traumatic long-term conditions or even death. If you take medications or are responsible for someone who does, understanding the risks of medication errors is essential.

Common Misuse

As all drugs are highly complex substances, adverse reactions commonly occur due to misunderstanding of dosing and timing. Taking a medication at the wrong time, missing doses, or discontinuing a medication too soon all contribute to the risk. Certain drugs that are highly misused are:

  • Arthritis medications – These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and joint pain affect approximately 70 million Americans. Over-prescribing by physicians, as well as general patient misuse, causes side effects including gastrointestinal bleeding and peptic ulcers. Approximately 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths occur annually as a result of these types of drugs.
  • Antibiotics – These have been notoriously over-prescribed and wrongly-prescribed in recent years. Used to fight bacterial-related illness, approximately 23 million patients have been improperly prescribed antibiotics for viral infections. Viral infections, such as upper respiratory infections, colds, and bronchitis are unaffected by antibiotics. In addition to the negative side effects of over-prescribed antibiotics, certain bacterial strains have become resistant to antibiotics because of their overuse. This makes fighting certain illnesses more difficult than ever.
  • Insulin – A necessity for patients with type 1 diabetes, preventable errors are commonly linked to insulin’s preparation and administration. Overdosing causes severe hypoglycemic reactions including seizures, coma, or even death. Under-dosing may result in ketoacidosis, which prevents the transfer of sugar from the blood into the body’s cells. This starves the cells and creates a negative domino effect in the body. Both hospitals and patients at home contribute to the high percentage of errors involving insulin.
  • Blood thinners, heart and blood pressure medications, pain relievers, and cancer drugs – These have also been common causes of medication errors in hospitals and at home.

What Can You Do?

The best defense you have as a patient and consumer is to be educated on the medication you are prescribed and to communicate regularly with your physician and pharmacist. Here are some helpful hints:

  • Provide a list of all your medications so that your doctor can avoid contraindications and harmful interactions. Include over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, and supplements.
  • Before leaving the doctor’s office, make sure any handwritten scripts and directions are legible. If not, clarify with your physician.
  • To confirm your name and the prescription, always read labels before taking a medication.
  • Never hesitate to ask the doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects.

Horn Law – Personal Injury Lawyers in Kansas and Missouri

Medication errors can result in high medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. If you live in the Midwest region and have questions regarding this type of medical malpractice, Horn Law has offices in Independence, Overland Park, Crown Center, and KC Northland. Our lead litigation attorney Laurie Del Percio has been voted “Best in the Bar” from 2009 through 2014. Her experience defending insurance agencies provides her with valuable insight in medical malpractice and injury cases. Contact Horn Law today for a free consultation.

Pharmaceutical Distributor, 2 Pharmacies Investigated by DEA for Alleged Illicit Distribution of Painkillers

Two pharmacies and a major pharmaceutical distributor have had their licenses to distribute controlled substances recently suspended by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA alleges that they were illicitly distributing the painkiller oxycodone and other medications. In its ongoing effort to crack down on narcotic painkiller abuse, the DEA has turned its attention to the pharmacies and distributors that dispense the drugs, in addition to the doctors who write the prescriptions. This issue concerns us because of the possibility of medication errors in dealing with dangerous drugs like oxycodone.

The two CVS pharmacies, both located in Sanford, Florida, came to the DEA’s attention because of an allegedly high number of prescriptions filled there for oxycodone and other controlled medications. Oxycodone is an opiate narcotic painkiller. The DEA tightly regulates it because of its high potential for abuse. Florida pharmacies reportedly account for more oxycodone prescriptions than the rest of the nation combined, and Florida is at the center of the DEA’s campaign against prescription drug abuse. A pharmacist at one of the locations reportedly told DEA investigators that the store would frequently run out of oxycodone within several hours of opening at 8:00 a.m., and sometimes within thirty minutes of opening. The DEA claims that records from the two pharmacies show that they filled an an unusually high number of a specific “prescription cocktail” consisting of oxycodone, muscle relaxants, and certain anti-anxiety medications.

At the same time, the DEA was investigating the Lakeland, Florida distribution center of Cardinal Health, which is the second-largest distributor of pharmaceuticals in the country. DEA investigators suspected that the Cardinal facility was shipping a greater amount of oxycodone to several area pharmacies, including the two Sanford CVS locations, than was warranted. In the previous three years, the DEA found that Cardinal had apparently shipped 7.5 million oxycodone pills to these two stores. In total, they said that Cardinal had shipped over 12 million pills to the four pharmacies under investigation. They also alleged that the company never inquired about the high volume of orders for oxycodone and other drugs from these stores, nor did they investigate the pharmacy locations.

The DEA suspended Cardinal’s license to distribute controlled substances from the Lakeland investigation pending an administrative hearing. It also suspended the controlled substance licenses of the two CVS stores. Cardinal reached an agreement with the DEA on the issue of its license suspension. It agreed to a suspension of its controlled substance license at the Lakeland facility for a two-year period. This does not however, address the issue of civil penalties, and the DEA has said it may still pursue Cardinal for fines and other penalties for “neglect[ing] its vital responsibility to prevent the diversion of controlled substances.” The licenses of the two CVS locations remain suspended while they await a hearing before a federal administrative judge. CVS has asserted that it has nothing to gain from illicit distribution of prescription medications, and that its high volume is due to its location near a major highway and its 24-hour pharmacy schedule.

Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer Doug Horn helps people who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital recover compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

Medication Error Causes Child to Overdose on Methadone

A pharmacy error that mixed up two very different drugs with similar names sent a six year-old child to the hospital after he took the recommended dosage of the wrong medication, which turned out to cause an overdose. The child had to be admitted to the hospital, and his prognosis was unclear for some time. Media reports indicate that he fully recovered. The state’s Pharmacy Board reprimanded the pharmacist who made the error, but there is no indication that the child’s family has pursued any legal claim for damages against the pharmacy.

The child has a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADHD) with autistic tendencies. His doctor prescribed Methylin, a psychostimulant drug used to treat ADHD and similar conditions. It is also marketed under the more common name Ritalin, or under its generic name, methylphenidate. Methylin has the potential to be habit-forming, so its use is strictly regulated and controlled.

On July 7, 2010, the child’s parents picked up what they believed to be his Methylin prescription from the pharmacy in Henrico County, Virginia. His father dropped him off at daycare and gave him his dose of the medicine. He says that he noticed that both the bottle and the medication looked different from what he had seen before. Assuming it was a generic version, he gave it to the child, then called his wife. He told her that the drug name on the prescription bottle was not Methylin, but Methadone.

Methadone, very much unlike Methylin, is a synthetic opioid. It is sometimes used as a painkiller, but its primary use is to treat people with an addiction to opioids such as heroin or morphine. It has many of the same effects as those drugs, so it can replace another narcotic in order to wean a person gradually off of the drug. Its effects are markedly different from those of Methylin.

Shortly after the child’s father told the mother about the different name and appearance of the medication, the child’s daycare called to say that he had become “very lethargic.” His mother arrived at the school to find him vomiting and having an apparent seizure. The child spent more than a day in the hospital receiving treatment for a narcotic overdose, and doctors told the parents at first that he might not recover. He did recover, though, and he is reportedly back to his hyperactive self.

The pharmacist expressed profound regret over the incident. He noted that the two drugs were placed next to one another on the pharmacy shelf, in addition to having very similar names. The Virginia Board of Pharmacy reprimanded him in March 2012 and ordered him to complete an eight-hour course on preventing medication errors. Media reports do not indicate that the child’s family has asserted any legal claims for negligence or for damages resulting from the medication error.

Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer Doug Horn helps people who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital recover compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

Web Resources:

Order (PDF), In Re: Joseph A. Oley, Pharmacist, Virginia Board of Pharmacy, March 2, 2012

Two Heart Medications and a Vitamin Create Confusion, Some Errors

Recently, pharmacies have had a few close calls involving three drugs with very similar names. These incidents underscore the importance of communicating with one’s doctor and pharmacist in order to avoid possible medication errors. Mix-ups between the heart medications Pradaxa and Ranexa, as well as the prenatal vitamin Prenexa, have caused several near-misses that could have become serious complications or injuries, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. People taking medications for heart conditions, and people who are pregnant, cannot afford any significant mix-up in their medications, so education and awareness are very important. These three drugs offer a good example of the need for caution.

Pradaxa is a blood thinner used to prevent blood clots in people with a type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation. This condition, left untreated, subjects the person to heightened risk of blood clots that could cause stroke. A possible side effect is excessive bruising or bleeding. It can be risky for pregnant women, since it increases the risk of bleeding during childbirth.

Ranexa treats angina, pressure or pain in the chest resulting from lack of oxygen to the heart. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the precise method by which the drug treats angina remains unknown. It cannot cure angina, nor is it meant for use with sudden angina attacks. Patients prescribed the drug should take it regularly as directed by their doctor, even if they do not feel bad. Patients with irregular heartbeat conditions are advised to use caution when taking the drug.

PreNexa is a prescription-based prenatal vitamin containing plant-based DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, as well as high levels of vitamin C and calcium. It has no particular side effects, but it contains allergy warnings for ingredients like folic acid. It is possible to overdose on ingredients like DHA, iron, and folic acid.

Taking Pradaxa for angina, when the patient should be taking Ranexa, increases the risk of hemorrhage. Taking Ranexa instead of Pradaxa for an irregular heartbeat has a heightened risk of stroke. Taking PreNexa instead of either drug would leave the heart condition entirely untreated, and taking either drug instead of PreNexa could cause any number of pregnancy complications

A few quick steps can help patients avoid potentially catastrophic medication errors from similarly-named drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates drug brand names, to an extent, and the agency tries to prevent drugs that treat a single condition from having similar names. Asking the doctor to identify the condition being treated on the prescription slip can help a pharmacist understand the purpose of the prescription and dispense the correct medication.

Pharmacists are also available to talk to patients, and patients are often encouraged to do so. Taking a moment to speak to the pharmacist can reveal medication errors. It can also give a pharmacist a more complete picture of the patient’s situation, enabling the pharmacist to better advise the patient.

Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer Doug Horn helps people who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital recover compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

Two Lawsuits Accuse Pharmacy of Dispensing Wrong Dosage of Seizure Medication

Two families have sued a pharmacy in Gig Harbor, Washington for multiple alleged medication errors involving incorrect doses of anti-seizure medication dispensed to two children. Both children reportedly suffered serious adverse reactions to the high doses they received at Olympic Pharmacy.

Kaeley Triller filled a prescription for her three year-old son, Tristan, in January at Olympic. After Tristan took the medication, Triller says that he began to suffer insomnia, convulsions, and hallucinations. She described his behavior as that of a “drunken sailor.” She rushed him to the emergency room, where the staff determined that the child had taken an overdose. The medication dosage dispensed by the pharmacy was four times greater than the prescribed amount. Doctors cleared Tristan of any further concerns related to the medication, and Triller was prepared to let the matter drop until she learned about another child who had received two incorrect doses of anti-seizure medicine from the same pharmacy.

In 2009, Laura Carlson went to Olympic to pick up a prescription for her then-11 year-old son, Chad. Chad’s doctor had written him a prescription for eight mls. of Lorazepam, a very powerful medication used to treat seizures, anxiety, and other conditions. The pharmacy gave her a single pre-filled syringe of the medication. Chad took the medication and proceeded to spend the next four days in the hospital with hallucinations. At first, the child complained of dizziness, but he gradually became non-responsive. Carlson learned that he had taken eight times more than the prescribed amount of Lorazepam. The prescription said to fill eight syringes with one ml. each, rather than one with all the medication.

By June 2011, Chad, now thirteen years old, had switched from injections to tablets. Carlson picked up his prescription at Olympic, and it caused Chad to become violently ill, featuring near-constant vomiting. The family determined that, rather than the prescribed 300 mg tablets, the pharmacy had given them 600 mg tablets. Chad had therefore taken twice the prescribed dosage.

Both families say that the pharmacy’s owners did not follow up on the prescription issues. They have filed two separate lawsuits against Olympic, each alleging that it negligently dispensed a dangerously-high dose of anti-seizure medications, leading to life-threatening situations for both children. This, they claim, caused damages to their children in the form of medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. Both Triller and Carlson have said that they would like to see that the pharmacy does not make this sort of error again with another family.

To prevail on a claim of negligence, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant owed a duty of care and breached that duty. The plaintiff must also prove that this breach caused them actual, measurable damages. Generally speaking, people owe a duty to one another to behave in a reasonably safe manner, and not to put anyone at unnecessary or unreasonable risk of harm. Pharmacists, much like doctors and other licensed professionals, have a higher duty of care applied to their professional conduct. This is because pharmacists’ responsibilities can have a much deeper and more serious impact on people’s health and safety than most people’s everyday actions.

Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer Doug Horn helps people who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital recover compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

The Risks of Obtaining Medications from Online Pharmacies

As more and more commerce moves from brick-and-mortar businesses to online retailers, online pharmacies are appearing all over the internet. These services can offer significant cost savings for consumers. They can also offer a certain convenience, sparing patients a trip to the drugstore by delivering their medications right to their door. At the same time, they bring some considerable risks. One risk is the possibility that important medications may be delayed, or even lost, in the mail. Other risks can result in serious medical or even legal trouble for consumers.

An advantage of a brick-and-mortar pharmacy is the ability to speak directly to a licensed pharmacist. This gives the patient the chance to ask questions, but it also affords an opportunity for both the patient and the pharmacist to confirm that the patient has received the correct medication. Pharmacy errors in which a patient receives the wrong medication certainly occur, and conducting a transaction entirely online and by mail makes an error harder to rectify. A California woman, trying to fill a prescription for the cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor, instead received Lipitor in the mail from an online pharmacy. While both drugs treat the same conditions, they work in different ways and are not substitutes for one another. The woman sent the medication back and reported the error to the pharmacy, but received the same wrong medication again. Her only means of contacting the pharmacy was through an 800 number.

While many online pharmacies are legitimate and reputable businesses, some do not maintain high standards of quality control. Some may import prescription drugs from foreign countries that lack regulations protecting the quality of the medications. In that sense, a consumer may receive what appears to be the correct medication, but not the strength or potency of medication that they require. For people with critical medication needs, this can be a grave concern. Legislation that would regulate the sale of prescription medications online, called the Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011, is pending in both houses of the U.S. Congress. Organizations like the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and the Missouri Board of Pharmacy can help determine if an online pharmacy is legitimate.

An additional risk is the inadvertent violation of federal drug laws. Federal law, through the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, bans the importation of controlled substances, including prescription medications, from other countries. With health care costs rising, online pharmacies based in Canada or other countries may present an appealing alternative to domestic pharmacies. While individual purchases of medications for personal use may not immediately attract the attention of law enforcement, it is important to know that it is illegal.

Last September, Google agreed to forfeit $500 million to the U.S. Department of Justice because of pharmacy advertisements that Google had allowed on its site. Google had reportedly allowed several Canadian online pharmacies to advertise to U.S. users through its AdWords program. This resulted in illegal importation of medications that lacked approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

People who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer, contact Doug Horn at Horn Law today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

Pharmacy Sued Over Fatal Drug Error

The family of an elderly Kentucky woman has filed suit against Walgreens pharmacy after an alleged mix-up of her prescription medication led to her death. Mary Moore, a Louisville resident, had just left the hospital after receiving treatment for high blood pressure, kidney failure, and congestive heart failure on November 10, 2010. Her doctor had written her a prescription for the high blood pressure medication Hydralazine. The pharmacy allegedly gave her the antihistamine Hydroxyzine by mistake.

Because of the medication error, Moore’s high blood pressure went entirely untreated for about two weeks. The pharmacy reportedly noticed the error and provided Moore with the correct medication, but by then “it was too late,” according to the lawsuit. Moore could not tolerate the dosage of the blood pressure medication. Her blood pressure reportedly continued to increase, putting additional strain on her heart. This caused “decompensation” of both her congestive heart failure and her kidney disease. She was hospitalized again, and died on December 6, 2010.

Hydralazine, according to the National Institutes of Health, is a muscle relaxant used to treat high blood pressure. It allows blood to flow more easily by relaxing the muscles in the blood vessels. Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine used to treat allergic reactions such as itching, and to control symptoms of motion sickness. It can also treat anxiety and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The NIH specifically cautions people over the age of 65 to not use Hydroxyzine, as other medications that treat the same conditions are considered safer for older patients.

Moore’s family filed a lawsuit in Jefferson Circuit Court in Louisville on February 15, 2012 against Walgreens and the pharmacist in charge at that particular location. The lawsuit claims negligence and wrongful death, as well as strict liability, negligent failure to warn, and breach of warranty. The pharmacy’s error in dispensing the wrong medication, according to the lawsuit, was a “substantial factor” in Moore’s injuries, in enhancing her existing injuries, and in causing her death. The suit also alleges that, by not counseling Moore about the drug at the time she filled the prescription, the pharmacy violated state law. Had the pharmacist spoken to Moore at that time, the pharmacist likely would have noticed that the medication was incorrect, the lawsuit says.

A pharmacist owes a duty of diligent care in filling prescription orders and explaining medications to patients. The law imposes a high duty of care on pharmacists because of the high level of responsibility they have over patients’ health. Pharmacists also have certain duties specifically provided by law. This sometimes includes a duty to offer consultation to a patient receiving a prescription medication for the first time, to address any questions the patient may have and to make certain the patient understands the medication. Depending on the type of legal requirement, a failure to perform any of these duties can also lead to civil liability for injuries that results from such an error.

People who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer, contact Doug Horn at Horn Law today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

Man Sues Pharmacy for Confusing Wart Remover for Eye Medication, FDA Deals with Similar Drug Names

After undergoing a fairly simple eye surgery, Queens, New York resident Smith Maceus went to a Walgreens pharmacy to fill a prescription for eye drops. His doctor had prescribed the eye drops to aid in his recovery. An error at the pharmacy, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by Maceus against Walgreens, led to him receiving a wart remover instead of the eye drops. The pharmacist allegedly gave him Durasal instead of the FDA-approved eye medication Durezol. Maceus’ lawsuit claims that he suffered “grievous personal injury” as a result of the error. He is demanding $1 million in damages.

The two drugs have similar names but could not be more different. Durezol is a highly dilute eye drop, consisting of 0.05% solution of ophthalmic chemicals. Durasal is a comparatively concentrated acid solution, containing 26% salicylic acid. It would have an unpleasant effect if placed in the eyes.

Maceus’ injury was the result of a conflict between drug names that had caused enough problems to get the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA issued an alert to phamracists and other medical professionals in December 2011 of the potential for confusion between Durezol and Durasal. It specifically called on pharmacists to be “vigilant” when filling Durezol prescriptions.

According to the FDA, Durasal’s manufacturer did not submit it to the process of FDA review and approval. It went on the market soon after the FDA gave final approval to Durezol. Therefore, the FDA could not do its usual check for conflicting trade names when it reviewed the application for Durezol, as it was not aware of Durasal at the time. Durasal’s manufacturer reportedly has not responded to FDA requests to take Durasal off the market while the FDA reviews the risk to patients.

An article at the Consumerist shows the packaging of the two drugs. The boxes bear a vague resemblance to one another, but the real similarity is in the names. Durasal’s box does bear a helpful warning, stating that the medication is “NOT FOR USE IN EYES” with the all-caps in the original. It is important to note that pharmacies sometimes repackage drugs, either omitting the box or even putting the medications into the pharmacy’s own containers. There is therefore no way of knowing how many patients actually see this warning.

Unfortunately, accidents involving eye medications are not at all rare. The Consumerist reported on a woman in Arizona who suffered serious injury in 2010 due to a mixup of her eye drops for something with similar packaging. She was recovering from cataract surgery, and instead of her eye drops, she picked up a tube of superglue. Paramedics managed to open her eyelids and clear the adhesive out of her eyes. The accident resulted from the similarity of the packaging, possibly combined with the woman’s post-surgical impaired vision. This incident underscores the importance of carefully confirming the packaging on medications that treat sensitive areas like the eyes.

People who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer, contact Doug Horn at Horn Law today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

Kansas Nurse Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Drug Tampering

In the past year, federal prosecutors have brought several cases against Kansas nurses for allegedly diluting painkillers prescribed for patients in nursing homes. These cases have demonstrated flaws in the regulation of the nursing profession in Kansas, according to several medical professionals. Tampering with prescribed medications, particularly powerful painkillers, certainly puts patients at risk by depriving patients of needed care and compromising doctors’ knowledge of their patients’ conditions.

In one case, Wendy Parmenter, a nurse at a Topeka nursing home, was accused of tampering with narcotics and stealing them for her own use on several occasions in 2010. Another nurse reported finding empty morphine bottles, which led the nursing director to order all employees to undergo oral-swab drug tests. Parmenter reportedly failed the test, but then passed two urine tests by substituting another employee’s urine for her own. She also allegedly diluted a bottle of morphine with tap water after using some of it. The morphine was intended for a 105 year-old patient suffering from chronic pain and dementia.

Prosecutors charged Parmenter with product tampering and adulteration of a drug. She admitted to addiction to narcotics, saying she would often take painkillers prescribed for patients under her care. She entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors in November 2011. A federal judge in Wichita sentenced her to three years in prison on February 2, although she may qualify for early release if she completes a drug treatment program.

Parmenter, it turned out, had a history of painkiller abuse when the nursing home hired her in June 2010. Two months earlier, while working at a nursing home in Emporia, she had been caught stealing the painkiller hydrocodone from patients. She pleaded guilty to a state charge of drug theft in August 2010 and received probation. This information was not available to the nursing home in Topeka when it hired her. Because of what critics call flaws in Kansas’ system of regulations for nurses, the state’s Board of Nursing indicated at all times in 2010 that her nursing license was in good standing.

The Associated Press reported last year on criticisms of state regulations inspired by Parmenter’s case and other similar cases. Kansas law does not require criminal background checks by nursing homes when they hire nurses. The state authorized the Board of Nursing to conduct criminal background checks on new applicants for licenses three years ago. This only applies to people applying for brand new licenses. This makes it difficult for the state, or for employers, to learn of any criminal problems nurses might have related to drugs or alcohol. According to the AP, the Kansas Board of Nursing fields more than 1,500 complaints every year, most related to alcohol or drug abuse, but less than ten percent get referrals for further discipline or treatment.

People who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Kansas City medication error lawyer, contact Doug Horn at Horn Law today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

Teen Who Lost All Four Limbs Due to a Medication Error Wins $12 Million Jury Verdict

Shaniah Rolle needed surgery for some serious intestinal problems. In 1998, doctors at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine had to remove the young girl’s spleen and several other organs. This addressed her intestinal problems but compromised her ability to fight off infections. The spleen acts as a filter to screen out bacteria and viruses, so without it she needed medication to prevent illness.

Her mother took her to the hospital’s pediatrics unit for a follow-up appointment in October 1998. A medical assistant administered an injection of a vaccine specifically designed to help people without spleens avoid infection. The assistant did not realize, apparently, that the vaccine was about five months out of date. As such, the vaccine was not medically effective.

Rolle’s mother rushed her to a different hospital eight months later when she fell seriously ill. She had developed a MRSA infection (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) that the vaccine should have prevented. By the time she got treatment, she had blot clots in all four limbs, and the extremities had become gangrenous. Doctors had no choice but to amputate her arms and legs above the joints.

Rolle’s mother filed suit against the medical school and several of the physicians who treated her, alleging that they were negligent in failing to provide an effective vaccine to guard against infection. The case went to trial in late 2011. After a five-week trial, the jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict finding mostly for the plaintiff.

The jury found the hospital and at least one of the doctors liable for Rolle’s injuries and awarded $12.6 million in damages. They also found, however, that Rolle’s mother was partly at fault for her injuries. Defense lawyers argued at trial that Rolle would have gotten sick whether she had the vaccine or not because her mother did not properly administer her medication. The jury concluded that the mother was forty percent responsible for her daughter’s injuries for failing to give her enough medicine to enable her to fight off the infection. This means that Rolle cannot collect the entire amount of the award, but rather sixty percent of it, or $7.56 million. Any recovery may be delayed, as the hospital is expected to file an appeal.

To prevail on a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care and breached that duty in a way that caused them harm, and that they have measurable damages. A defendant may seek to show that the plaintiff, or someone acting on behalf of the plaintiff, was entirely or partly responsible for the plaintiff’s damages. This is known as comparative negligence. A defendant must show that another party, though not necessarily a party to the lawsuit, was also negligent. This can reduce the total amount of damages owed by the defendant or offset liability entirely. In this instance, the jury found that both the hospital and the mother had some responsibility, and they reduced the damages owed by the hospital accordingly.

People who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer, contact Doug Horn at Horn Law today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.