Imagine your mother suffered from chronic migraines. She tried everything to treat them—over-the-counter medication, acupuncture, physical therapy—but nothing seemed to work. Nearly every day of her life was filled with incapacitating pain. Finally she went to a doctor who prescribed OxyContin® to treat her condition. It was like a miracle drug. After years of suffering, she was finally able to resume life as normal.
Last week, we examined the unexpected and potentially devastating side effects of Ambien--the world's number one sleep aid. We talked about cases of well-intentioned patients who took the medication as prescribed before bed into order to help them fall asleep. They then awoke to a horrid discovery: that they had committed atrocious crimes in their sleep--without any intention or knowledge of what they were doing.
Since its release into the market over a decade ago, Ambien has become a ubiquitous name in the medical industry. It has been shown to induce sleep in about 20 minutes, and people all over the world have sworn by its efficacy. It has quickly become the number one prescription sleep aid as well as one of the top-selling prescription drugs in the United States—more widely consumed that Percocet or prescription-strength Ibuprofin. Its generic version—Zolpidem—sells for just $2 per pill, making it affordable to most consumers.
Older readers will remember the commercial tagline "Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible." Monsanto put it out there back in the 1970s. These days, with all the attention on the environment and the effects of human activity upon it, many might be inclined to take a dim view of chemical production. However, that Monsanto line still carries some weight, especially when you consider how necessary chemicals are in the making of medications.
Medication errors are a common type of medical error observed in the health care industry. In many cases, medication errors are preventable. These errors can be traced back to physicians, of course, in the prescription of medications, but also to pharmacists who prepare and dispense the medication, nurses who administer the medication, and the health care administration responsible for supervising medication-related matters.
We have written before on this blog on the topic of medical standard of care. As we’ve noted, the medical standard of care can vary from one state to another and even from one community to another, depending on state law.
In any healthcare-related liability case, it is not enough for a plaintiff to provide evidence of a poor outcome and to blame that poor outcome on the health professional. Not every poor health outcome is attributable to professional error, and not every professional error rises to the level of malpractice.
Last time, we began looking at a malpractice case filed by a Michigan couple against a therapist who dropped the ball in caring for their daughter. Sources don’t specifically name the allegations, but do say the girl died from an overdose of an antidepressant medication.
Medication errors are one of the many types of mistakes that can occur in the delivery of health care. In many cases, medication errors have no significant consequence. In some cases, the consequences can be fatal. According to a study conducted earlier this year, ten percent of all deaths in the United States are due to medical errors, and medication errors are the third most common type of medical error.
Last time, we began speaking on the issue of medication errors, and mentioned a study which highlighted the high risk of medication errors occurring in connection with infants. Another recent study highlights the risk of medication errors from a different angle: that of health care data management mistakes.