Prescription Drug Error Resulting In Overdose

According to the Institute of Medicine, at least 1.5 million Americans are sickened, injured or killed each year by errors in prescribing, dispensing and taking medications. It is estimated that as many as 7,000 deaths occur annually in the United States from incorrect prescriptions. The problem is getting worse as the annual number of prescriptions dispensed increases. While prescription drug dispensing errors can occur at all types of practice settings, retail chain drug stores and prescription mail-order houses have been responsible for the majority of the prescription drug dispensing errors causing serious personal injuries and morbidity in the U.S.

Errors at retail chain drug stores and mail order facilities can occur for many reasons including when:

The wrong drug is dispensed

 The wrong dosage of the correct drug is dispensed

 The wrong instructions are typed on the prescription label(causing the patient to take either an increased dosage or a lower dosage [a sub-therapeutic level] of the correct drug)

The pharmacy fails to take into account drug-drug  interactions

The pharmacy is too busy to consult the patient regarding proper drug usage

If you or a loved one has fallen victim to negligence committed by a retail chain drug store or a pharmacy mail-order house, you are encouraged to contact the MARCARIAN LAW FIRM for an absolutely free and confidential consultation. With his education, training, and experience as an attorney and a pharmacist, Mr. Marcarian can help you or your loved one get compensation. Contact or call us at (800) 924-DRUG or (818) 995-8787 without obligation.

How can errors happen at a pharmacy? Aren’t pharmacists supposed to be trained, licensed professionals?

Most prescription drug related errors occurring at retail chain drug stores and mail-order houses occur because these operations are generally understaffed and their employees are over worked . . . a potentially deadly combination! These operations place their economic welfare above your interests by not hiring enough pharmacists and other trained employees.

Prescription drug errors also can occur because similar drug names can cause confusion.  There are between 1,500 to 2,000 drugs with similar names.  Some examples of similar sounding drug names are: Zantac (for acid reflux) and Xanax (for anxiety).

Here are some valuable tips to protect yourself and your loved ones:

Unless you absolutely must . . . avoid getting your prescriptions filled at retail chain drug stores or by mail-order pharmacies (Do the members of your state legislature and their families or members of Congress and their families get their prescriptions filled at chain drug stores or mail-order facilities?)

 Get your prescriptions filled by your local friendly community pharmacist where the pharmacist can spend the time to talk to you and consult you regarding your medications

Try to avoid having your prescription called in over the phone

ALWAYS check your pills and ask questions from your local community pharmacist and your doctors regarding your medications

Q&A with Armond Marcarian

Interviewer: What is prescription overdose?

Armond Marcarian: Prescription overdose typically occurs when a patient either intentionally or otherwise takes more of the drug than was prescribed for the patient. There are times, obviously, when prescriptions are taken, even if the prescription taken was not ordered for that particular patient, and the patient intentionally ingests excessive sums thereby causing injury or death.

Interviewer: Would I have a case if the doctor gave me the incorrect drug or the incorrect dose?

Armond Marcarian: Having a legal case would all depend on whether or not taking the incorrect drug and/or taking the incorrect dose results in injury. There are times where a patient will be given an incorrect drug and he/she will take it for a few days and will start not feeling so well and will bring it to the doctor’s attention. Once the drug is discontinued, the symptoms subside within a short period of time and there is no injury to the patient. In a case like that, speaking only for our office, we would not be interested in pursuing a lawsuit because I do not believe there would be a legal claim.

Interviewer: What if the pharmacy gave me the wrong dose or the wrong drug?

Armond Marcarian: If the pharmacy dispenses the wrong medication or the wrong dosage and a patient ingests the medication, it will turn on whether or not there is an injury to the patient as a result of the wrong dosage or the wrong drug. If there is no injury, there will not be a legal claim. However, if the matter was brought to the attention of the California State Board of Pharmacy, there would be some administrative, disciplinary action initiated by the Board against the pharmacy and the pharmacist who dispensed the wrong drug or the wrong dosage.

Interviewer: Is there any liability involved if a pharmacist dispenses a drug which interacts harmfully with other medications I take?

Armond Marcarian: Because of the pharmacist’s education, training, and experience, he/she is required to monitor a patient’s drug usage. Typically, what happens is that a patient presents a prescription to the pharmacy and, assuming that patient has a prescription profile at that particular pharmacy, the pharmacist is required to review the drug history for that patient and make a clinical judgment whether or not dispensing the new prescription can potentially interact with the other prescriptions the patient has been on. In busier retail pharmacies, and mail order houses in particular, that process is not followed quite the way it is supposed to be. You typically see drug-drug interactions that are, at times, fatal and certainly result in hospital admissions. That is an area of concern and it happens frequently. The pharmacist can be held liable for having failed to discharge his obligations to monitor and assess drug-drug interactions.

Interviewer: What is CURES Reporting?

Armond Marcarian: Issues relating to CURES reporting and the mandates of CURES reporting is a hot button issue not only in California, but in the whole country. What a CURES Report does is that it identifies all the controlled substances that a patient has received from all of the pharmacies in California and all of the doctors who have prescribed those controlled substances. The purpose of the CURES Report is to flag down, if you will, the patient who may be a chronic medication user or abuser. For instance, a patient walks into a pharmacy, say on Wilshire, and gets a prescription filled for Valium from a Dr. Smith and the next day goes to a Dr. Jones and gets another prescription for Valium, and then goes to a Hollywood pharmacy and gets that prescription filled, and on the next day attempts to get yet another Valium prescription from a third doctor filled at a third pharmacy. If that third pharmacy runs a CURES Report for the patient, it would identify the previous two Valium prescriptions that the patient has received. Now, that brings up what is called a “corresponding responsibility”. What that means is that the third pharmacist has a corresponding responsibility with the prescriber to ensure, as in my example, that the Valium prescription was issued for a legitimate medical purpose. Strong argument can be made that getting three different Valium prescriptions on three consecutive days from three different prescribers may not be for a legitimate medical purpose. So, when the pharmacist runs the CURES Report, and is able to identify the usage by this patient of Valium, as in my example, he now has an obligation to contact the prescriber to find out more details about why the prescriber is prescribing additional Valium for this patient. The third prescriber may or may not have been aware there were two other prescribers who prescribed the same medication. That is the utility of the CURES Report. It is not the standard of care, however, in the state of California now for every pharmacy to run a CURES Report. However, I tell my clients that I almost guarantee them that if the pharmacy does not run the CURES Report on a fairly routine basis, the California State Board of Pharmacy will be looking at them; and, depending on the circumstances, could be bringing an accusation to revoke the pharmacist’s license and the pharmacy’s permit even though it is really not the standard of care.