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Medication Error - Philadelphia Injury and Malpractice Attorneys - The Beasley Firm

Fentanyl / Duragesic Pain Patch Overprescription Becoming A Full-Blown Crisis

By Max Kennerly, Esq. on July 1, 2013 - No comments

There’s an old saying that, “two is a coincidence, three is a pattern.” Last week, the fentanyl pain patch (technically the “DURAGESIC® fentanyl transdermal system”) came up three times for me:

  • First, my office received a call from someone who had recently lost a family member through a rather inexplicable course of malpractice, and while talking to our nurse paralegal briefly mentioned the patient had “pain patches.”
  • Second, a lively discussion came together on one of the many plaintiff’s lawyer e-mail lists I follow, talking about the types of wrongful death claims that can be brought after a Fentanyl death.
  • Third, WHYY reported that Pennsylvania health officials were warning about how “Overdoses from the opiate fentanyl have already led to at least 50 confirmed deaths in the state this year, according to Pennsylvania’s department of drug and alcohol programs.”

That seemed like a pattern, so I figured it was time for a blog post.

The idea of the fentanyl pain patch sounds crazy: why would you ever give someone a drug that is prone to abuse, prone to theft and drug trafficking, and has, as the warning label says, a “risk of fatal overdose due to respiratory depression?” Once you have seen a loved one go through weeks of agony caused by irreparable nerve or muscle damage, or bone degeneration or the like, then it makes sense, and it’s no stretch to say that these patches have given some people their lives back.

But there’s a dark side. As the prescribing information for the Duragesic patch says:

Respiratory depression is the chief hazard of DURAGESIC. Respiratory depression, if not immediately recognized and treated, may lead to respiratory arrest and death.

DURAGESIC has a narrow indication and should be prescribed only by healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable in the administration of potent opioids and management of chronic pain [see Indications and Usage (1)]. DURAGESIC is contraindicated for use in conditions in which the risk of lifethreatening respiratory depression is significantly increased, including use as an as-needed analgesic, use in non-opioid tolerant patients, acute pain, and postoperative pain [see Contraindications (4)]. Proper dosing and titration of DURAGESIC are essential [see Dosage and Administration (2.3)]. Overestimating the DURAGESIC dose when converting patients from another opioid medication, can result in fatal overdose with the first dose. However, respiratory depression has also been reported with use of DURAGESIC in patients who are opioidtolerant, even when DURAGESIC has been used as recommended and not misused or abused.

Read that a couple times, particularly the last sentence, and let it sink in: the pain patch can cause fatal respiratory depression even when used correctly.

Yet, the biggest problem may not be misuse of Duragesic by patients, but overprescription by doctors. Importantly, the prescribing label warns that the fentanyl pain patch should not be used:

  • In patients who are not opioid-tolerant
  • In the management of acute pain or in patients who require opioid analgesia for a short period of time
  • In the management of post-operative pain, including use after out-patient or day surgeries (e.g., tonsillectomies)
  • In the management of mild pain
  • In the management of intermittent pain (e.g., use on an as needed basis [prn])

Shockingly, however, some doctors routinely prescribe the fentanyl pain patch for short-term pain, for recovery after surgery, and for patients whose could be more than adequately managed by other available painkillers, including oral morphine, oral oxycodone, or oral hydromorphone. Some patients could even be treated by less-dangerous therapies like NSAIDs or the like, if done properly in conjunction with non-medication therapies like cold and hot therapy or physical therapy. Many times, doctors prescribe the pain patch in lieu of sending the patient to a specialist pain management doctor.

Frankly, I think the problem needs to stop at the source: doctors need to stop giving out fentanyl so easily. But while there’s money to be made by the drug companies, and while the medical societies refuse to clamp down on the surgeons and family physicians that shouldn’t ever prescribe fentanyl to anyone, it doesn’t seem like anything’s going to change.

 

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An Anesthesia Error Or Anesthesiologist Mistake Can Cause Brain Damage, Nerve Damage, Paralysis, Blindness Or Even Death

By The Beasley Firm on January 4, 2013 - No comments

Anesthesia or conscious sedation can be a wonderful thing.  It allows patients to undergo surgery or other invasive procedures without experiencing pain or discomfort.  It has come a long way since chloroform, ether, and opium but it is still not without risk of harm.  Current statistics show that 1 in every 200,000 to 300,000 patients die and others are seriously injured due to anesthesia complications or mistakes.

Three common types of anesthesia include:

  • Local anesthesia which is used to numb a small, specific area of the body, such as a tooth.
  • Regional anesthesia to numb a larger section of the body.  Spinal anesthesia and epidural anesthesia are examples of regional anesthesia
  • General anesthesia that results in unconsciousness and lack of sensation

Anesthesia is not only administered in hospital operating rooms (OR).  It is also used in surgical centers, dentist offices, emergency departments, intensive care units, outpatient procedure units, pain clinics, plastic surgery offices, ambulatory surgery facilities (ASF) and short procedure units.

The following are anesthesia mistakes or negligent acts that can happen when a patient is receiving anesthesia:

  • Anesthesia dose or medication error resulting in too little or too much anesthesia
  • Improper intubation or failure to properly oxygenate the patient leading to hypoxia or a brain injury
  • Delay in receiving the medication due to a faulty intravenous (IV) line
  • Not monitoring an IV line that could lead to fluid or medication infiltration and compartment syndrome
  • A failure to recognize any complications during anesthesia or surgery
  • Failure to respond quickly enough to an emergency situation or if the patient becomes unstable
  • Traumatic or forceful intubation that could perforate the esophagus
  • Placing an epidural in the wrong spot
  • A failure to monitor or address unstable vital signs
  • Improper padding or limb protection
  • Damage to nerves or spinal column
  • Give the wrong medication
  • Not monitoring the pulse oximetry (pulse ox) to check on proper oxygenation or turning the alarms off.
  • Ignoring alarms
  • Leaving the head of the bed and leaving patient unattended
  • Allowing the oxygen source to come too close to electrical equipment causing a flash fire, sparks or burns
  • Defective equipment
  • Not having the proper resuscitation equipment in case of a medical emergency

An anesthesia error or anesthesiologist mistake can cause tracheal or esophageal damage, a lack of oxygen to the brain, blindness, stroke, heart attack, damage to a limb, birth injury in a pregnant mother, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, paraplegia, nerve damage, coma or even death.

If you or a family member were injured while undergoing a surgical procedure or receiving anesthesia by an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist (CRNA) you may be eligible for compensation.  Here at the Philadelphia Beasley medical malpractice law firm we have on staff doctors and nurses who have actually worked in hospitals or centers where anesthesia was administered.  To date, our experienced legal and medical teams have had over $2 billion awarded on behalf of our injured clients.  Please feel free to contact one of our lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.

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High Blood Sugar Or Hyperglycemia In Patients Receiving Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) Are At A Higher Risk Of Death

By The Beasley Firm on January 4, 2013 - No comments

Research published by the American Diabetes Association shows that non-critically ill patients who develop hyperglycemia or a high blood sugar after receiving total parental nutrition (TPN) or hyperalimentation are more likely to die in the hospital.

TPN is used in patients who cannot or shouldn’t get their nutrition by eating.  TPN may include a combination of sugar, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, electrolytes and trace elements.  TPN is administered to any patient, from premature infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to the elderly if it is medically necessary for nutritional purposes.

The research found that patients who were not critically ill who had an average blood glucose or blood sugar level above 180 mg/dl due to TPN had a 5.6-fold increase in wrongful death as compared to those patients whose blood sugars were below 140 mg/dl.  The increase in mortality persisted even after accounting for patient age, nutritional status, sex, other medical conditions, high blood sugar prior to TPN, diabetes, C-reactive protein level, albumin level, hemoglobin levels or infections.

Hyperglycemia or too much sugar in the blood can cause the following problems:

  • Polydipsia – frequent or excessive thirst
  • Polyphagia – frequent or pronounced hunger
  • Polyuria – frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor circulation
  • Poor wound healing
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities, especially the feet and legs
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Recurrent infections
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heart beat or cardiac arrhythmia
  • Coma
  • Death

This most recent research data suggests that the goal of blood sugar control in patients who are not critically ill, with or without diabetes, who are receiving TPN or hyperalimentation, should be to have a blood glucose level below 180mg/dl.  According to the authors, “This study opens the door to further prospective studies in non-critically ill patients to determine whether stricter blood glucose control during TPN infusion improves the outcome for patients and reduces mortality.”

If you or a loved one developed complications from a high blood sugar or hyperglycemia, we may be able to assist you.  Here at the Philadelphia Beasley medical malpractice law firm we have on staff physicians and nurses who have cared for patients on hyperalimentation or who had hyperglycemic episodes.  Please feel free to contact one of our lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.

For over 50 years we have been a leader in Philadelphia’s legal community when an individual who has been harmed, is looking for a law firm to represent them. Since 1958, The Philadelphia Beasley Law Firm attorneys have represented some of the most prominent and powerful people in the area and obtained record setting verdicts and settlements, including the first ever million dollar verdict in Pennsylvania. Our Firm has obtained hundreds of verdicts or settlements that were $1 million and above, and has had over two billion dollars awarded on behalf of our injured clients.

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Too Much Sodium or Salt in the Body Due To A Pharmacy Medication Or Drug Error Can Lead To Death Of A Patient

By The Beasley Firm on January 4, 2013 - No comments

In September 2010, a 24 week premature little boy was born in an Illinois hospital.  Due to his prematurity, he had to receive all of his nutrition from intravenous (IV) fluids and electrolytes.  The newborn was doing very well after birth until a grave mistake made by a pharmacy technician caused an extremely high level of sodium in his little body or hypernatremia.

The pharmacy technician, who was following a doctor’s order, filled the IV bag with 60 times the amount of sodium that should have been added.  It was also discovered that the initial label on the IV bag correctly identified the incorrect amount of sodium.  Instead of discarding the IV fluid with the incorrect sodium amount, a new label was created showing the correct sodium dosage and was placed over the first label.  The nurse administering the IV fluid was not made aware of the mistake or the creation of a new label.

In the following days, when this little boy’s lab tests were showing an extremely high sodium level, it was chalked up to being an incorrect lab result.  Sadly, it was not an incorrect lab result and he died of hypernatremia or excessive amount sodium in his body.  His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit blaming a series of hospital, pharmacy, nursing and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or neonatologist negligence that led to his untimely death.

Hypernatremia or a high sodium level in the body can cause mental status changes, confusion, lethargy, irritability, weakness, edema or swelling, muscle twitching, exaggerated reflexes, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

In addition to receiving an overdose of sodium, individuals can suffer from hypernatremia if they do not have enough water intake or are dehydrated.  The elderly, chronically ill, children and overworked athletes are at a high risk of developing hypernatremia.  It is very important that a healthcare provider diagnose and quickly treat a high sodium level before it results in a catastrophic injury or death.

Our highly specialized legal and medical teams here at the Philadelphia Beasley wrongful death law firm have evaluated numerous cases where hypernatremia, dehydration or a high sodium level was not properly diagnosed or treated in a timely manner, and it led to a catastrophic injury or wrongful death.  If you think you or a loved one has suffered due to a medication error please feel free to contact one of our lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291 for strictly confidential and free consultation.

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Heart Attack After Dialysis Lawsuits – Information About Fresenius Class Action Over Cardiac Injuries And Deaths

By Max Kennerly, Esq. on October 27, 2012 - 2 comments

Since 1958, The Beasley Firm has fought for injured patients and consumers, recovering over $2 billion for our clients through hundreds of multi-million dollar settlements and jury verdicts. If you or a loved one suffered a heart attack or other cardiac problem within 48 hours of receiving dialysis, at any point between 2008 and July 2012, contact us for a free and confidential consultation by filling out our online form or by calling (888) 823-5291.

 

Yesterday, I received a call from a man in his fifties who, two years ago, had suffered a heart attack a day after receiving his routine dialysis from Fresenius Medical Care. He had recently seen a television commercial — coincidentally while receiving his dialysis treatment — with an actor in a dark suit standing in front of law books and pointing his finger at the camera urging anyone who had suffered a heart problem while on dialysis to call the number now to make sure they had a claim. He called, and a day later two lawyers showed up at his house with a lot of paperwork, telling him he had to sign the attorney’s fee agreement now or lose out on a lot of money. In other words, he just wanted answers and instead he got the same “hard sell” that has become all too common in personal injury law. It’s disturbing and embarrassing.

Thankfully, the man had two friends who were lawyers, so he asked them what to do, and they both told him to call us. Like most mass torts lawyers, I’ve been following the GranuFlo and NaturaLyte litigation with interest, but I haven’t written about it yet. With that call, I suppose it’s time to explain what’s happening — unfortunately, most of the law firm websites out there are filled with so many advertising hooks it’s hard for affected dialysis patients (or their survivors) to figure out what’s going on. First, a little bit of history.

 

The “Bicarbonate” Problem With Fresenius’ GranuFlo and NaturaLyte, Which Are Used In Dialysis Clinics Nationwide

Hemodialysis involves using machines to remove waste products like creatinine, urea, and water from the blood in kidney failure patients. Those waste products, in turn, break down proteins, which in turn produce acid when they break down. One of the complications of kidney failure is metabolic acidosis, because the kidney can’t remove acid and can’t produce bicarbonate, which is a base. So, hemodialysis involves both removing waste and adding bicarbonate, and a patient’s nephrologist will include with the dialysis prescription some particular level of bicarbonate to be maintained in the patient’s blood.

That’s where GranuFlo and NaturaLyte come in. The “dialysate” in dialysis is a mixture of purified water, a bicarbonate concentrate (usually sodium bicarbonate), and an acid concentrate (either acetic acid, citric acid, or sodium diacetate). GranuFlo and NaturaLyte are used as the acid concentrate: GranuFlo is a solid sodium diacetate concentrate, while NaturaLyte is a liquid acetic acid concentrate. Both are made by Fresenius (and used by Fresenius and sold to other dialysis centers), and together they’ve been the most widely used dialysate acid concentrates for years.

But there’s a problem: from 2008 through early 2012, GranuFlo and NaturaLyte included more bicarbonate than it should, and so the patients received too much bicarbonate. The excess bicarbonate then produces metabolic alkalosis (the opposite of metabolic acidosis), which dramatically increases the risk of heart attacks, cardiac arrest, arrhythmia, and stroke, and thus increases the risk of death, too.

 

Fresenius Should Have Known Its Dialysis Mixtures Were Dangerous, And Failed To Take Action When It Learned Of Its Patients Having Heart Attacks

The shocking part is that this is all basic chemistry that should have been revealed by basic pre-market testing — and Fresenius apparently knew for some time that there was a serious problem. According to complaints filed in court, some Fresenius employees were told as early as 2008 to cut the acetate dose below the prescription, which, if true, would be an admission that the GranuFlo and NaturaLyte were producing too high levels of bicarbonates. By 2009 or 2010, Fresenius had change the operator’s manual for some of its machines to instruct operators to cut the acetate dose in half, again showing awareness of the problem. But Fresenius didn’t change the GranuFlo and NaturaLyte mixtures themselves.

Instead, apparently, they just studied it more, and the results were shocking. An internal memorandum at Fresenius (PDF copy here), sent only to the directors and attending physicians of their dialysis clinic in November 2011, revealed that its patients’ serum pre-dialysis bicarbonate levels gradually increased from 2004 to 2011, and found that that 941 patients had suffered cardiac arrest inside Fresenius clinics in 2010. The internal researchers at Fresenius concluded that their patients had a six-fold increase in the risk of cardiopulmonary arrest and sudden cardiac death.

Fresenius knew its patients were suffering heart attacks — and many of them were dying — but they still didn’t do anything about it. A whistleblower leaked the memo to the Food & Drug Administration, which took swift action, and in March 2012 the FDA issued a class 1 recall for the GranuFlo and NaturaLyte produced from January 2008 through 2012.

 

The Coming “Class Actions” Over Heart Attacks After Dialysis, And How They Really Work (Hint: They’re Not Actually Class Actions)

Now comes the legal fall-out, and the inevitable “class actions.” I write “class action” in quotes because there won’t be any class actions, but there will be what’s known as “consolidated litigation.” (So far, only a handful of lawsuits have been filed, but, given the scope of the damage, we are confident there will be so many lawsuits the courts will order consolidation.) Here’s the core difference between the two: how individuals are treated.

In a class action, all of the plaintiffs are treated the same, i.e., they are win or lose together, and they all recover roughly the same in a settlement or jury verdict. In consolidated litigation, most of the pre-trial work in the case is done in a coordinated manner (e.g., depositions of corporate executives, gathering of scientific evidence, etc.), but each plaintiff will win, lose, or settle on their own. Each injured Fresenius will need to prove their individual injury was caused by the GranuFlo / NaturaLyte, and each will prove their own level of damages and thus be awarded their own amount of compensation. (Read here for more about how the value of a wrongful death lawsuit is calculated.)

We, as lawyers for the injured Fresenius patients, are confident that we will be able to prove Fresenius was negligent (1) in designing the product improperly; (2) in failing to test it; (3) in failing to act on the reports of problems; and (4) in failing to warn patients, doctors, and clinic staff of the problem. It will take a year or more of consolidated discovery proceedings to do it, but we are confident we will.

The real issue in each case will likely be “causation.” That is, proving the patient suffered a heart attack, or cardiac arrest, or died as a result of the excessive bicarbonates in the mixture, as compared to something else, like their pre-existing risk factors for heart problems, including the fact that they are already kidney patients.

How do we evaluate “causation?” By the time in between the last dialysis treatment and the cardiac event. Of course, every patient follows a different dialysis schedule (in general, more dialysis is better than less, but everyone has their own life to attend to, and no one wants to sit in a dialysis clinic for even longer than they need). We’re not in the business of filing frivolous lawsuits or wasting our client’s time, we in the business of helping seriously injured people obtain adequate compensation, and so we limit our cases to those supported by the science and the medicine.

 

Free Consultation And Contingent Fee (We Pay All Expenses) Lawyers For Patients Who Suffered Heart Problems Within 48 Hours Of Receiving Dialysis

Based on we know and have studied, we have set an internal timeline of 48 hours, and a time frame of 2008 through July 2012: if you or a loved one began to suffer a heart attack within 48 hours of receiving dialysis at any point between 2008 and July 2012, and you received GranuFlo or NaturaLyte (which is possible even if you were not at a Fresenius clinic) we think you might have a viable claim, and we’re happy to review it and, if it lines up then we’ll represent you in a lawsuit on a contingent fee.

Since 1958, The Beasley Firm has fought for injured patients and consumers, recovering over $2 billion for our clients through hundreds of multi-million dollar settlements and jury verdicts. If you or a loved one suffered a heart attack or other cardiac problem within 48 hours of receiving dialysis, contact our dangerous drug lawyers for a free and confidential consultation by filling out our online form or by calling The Beasley Firm’s main line at (888) 823-5291.

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Was Your Baby Born Deaf Or Is Your Child’s Hearing Loss Due To An Antibiotic or Medication?

By The Beasley Firm on April 18, 2012 - No comments

There are over 200 different medications or substances that are considered ototoxic or that can cause hearing loss or deafness.  Not only can hearing be affected in adults due to a medication, but many children develop hearing loss especially after being on certain antibiotics.  You may have been told that your child was born deaf, when in reality, it was a medication your child was given after birth that caused the deafness. 

Many infants or newborns that are born with the diagnosis of sepsis or infection are usually automatically given the antibiotics Ampicillin and Gentamycin.  That is a good thing because those antibiotics treat a large variety of mother-baby infections, that can develop during labor and delivery or the Group B strep (GBS) infection.  However, blood levels of those antibiotics, especially Gentamycin, must be closely monitored or they can cause deafness or hearing loss in your child.

When an antibiotic is ordered for a newborn, infant, or premature baby, the dose should be calculated by the baby’s weight, not age.  Unfortunately, that does not always happen.  In addition, once a patient, no matter what age, is given Gentamycin, blood tests known as “peak and trough” levels must be drawn to see if the patient is receiving too high of a dose of the antibiotic for their body.  If the blood levels come back too high, the medication dose may need to be lowered or it could lead to hearing loss or deafness. 

Many infants, preemies, or newborn babies are given a hearing test called brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) or brainstem auditory evoked potential (BAEP) to make sure there was no hearing loss at birth or shortly after birth.  Parents are informed that their baby passed their hearing test, but do not realize that antibiotics may still be given after the hearing test was performed.  When that happens, the parents take their newborn baby home thinking everything is fine with their hearing when in fact; there was hearing loss that went undiagnosed or treated because of the ongoing antibiotic medications that were administered after the hearing test. 

The first two years of a baby’s life are extremely important for language and speech development. If your baby has hearing loss or deafness it can keep your child from reaching certain speech or language milestones that can lead to further developmental delays.  Any delay in diagnosing deafness or hearing difficulties in a child can lead to lifelong problems.  An infant or a child can not tell you they can not hear because they do not know any different. 

If you were told your child was born deaf or now has hearing problems, it may have been caused by a medication or antibiotic your newborn baby received after birth.   Please feel free to contact one of our experienced medication error lawyers, doctors or newborn nursery and neonatal intensive care (NICU) nurses by using this form or calling us at 1.888.823.5291.  We have the legal knowledge and the medical experience to give you answers or help you like we have helped so many others in the past.

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Patients On Patient Controlled Anesthesia (PCA) Pain Pumps Should Not Die Due To Respiratory Failure or Breathing Problems.

By The Beasley Firm on February 24, 2012 - No comments

Any person who traumatically or unexpectedly loses a loved one, especially a child, will tell you that the pain never goes away.  Here at the Beasley Law Firm, we have witnessed the pain and suffering that many parents had to deal with after the unnecessary death of their infant, toddler, adolescent or teenager.   Brian and Cindy Abbiehl are currently feeling that pain after losing their 18-year-old daughter Amanda.

Amanda was admitted to the hospital with a swollen, sore throat and dehydration due to a strep-like virus.  To ease Amanda’s pain, she was placed on a patient controlled anesthesia (PCA) pain pump that was filled with the narcotic Dilaudid.   Brian and Cindy stayed with Amanda all day and then kissed her goodnight.  At the time, they did not know that would have been the last time they saw Amanda alive.  On July 17, 2010, Amanda was found unresponsive in her hospital bed and was unable to be resuscitated. It appears that she died due to respiratory depression or respiratory failure, which is a common side effect of Dilaudid and other pain medications.

When Amanda was on the pain pump, she was not connected to a monitor that would have detected a drop in her oxygen level, increase in her carbon dioxide level or a decrease in her respiratory rate because it was not the current standard treatment or protocol.  Mr. Abbiehl feels that one of the reasons it is not the standard of care is because it is expensive for hospitals to do.  Even though there are pain pumps that are equipped to monitor breathing or shut off if a patient’s respirations become dangerously low, hospitals are not purchasing them due to their price tag.

Out of their loss, grief and anger, the Abbiehl’s started the foundation, “A Promise to Amanda” to raise awareness to the potential dangers of PCA pumps in hopes that something like this does not happen to any other patient or family.  What the Abbiehl’s are doing is very similar to what Mary Ellen Mannix did after she lost her newborn son James to a series of medical errors.  Mary Ellen wrote a book and also founded James’s Project to educate other parents so no one would have to go thru what she and her husband did.

In addition to Amanda’s Foundation, a class at The University of Notre Dame is also working on raising awareness after hearing about Amanda’s death.  The class is helping to “design materials to convey their message to medical professionals as well as the general public.”  To help with this project, the class invited the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health and Safety (PPAHS)  and other healthcare experts to discuss PCA errors and how to improve patient safety.  The class has the following two questions that they would like to find answers to:

1)     Who are the patient safety champions who would lead the charge in implementing smart PCA pumps at hospitals (e.g., anesthesiologists, nurses, respiratory therapists)?

2)     What information would these champions need to have to affect change in their organizations?

In addition to unrecognized respiratory depression caused by PCA pumps, patients have died from numerous other pain pump problems.  Errors when programming the PCA pump seems to be the most common drug mistake and patients are inadvertently overdosed with the narcotic.  Other problems such as PCA by proxy, which is when someone other than the patient activates the PCA button, frequently leads to more medication than the patient needs.  Because it is common knowledge that these errors can occur when using a PCA pump, it is extremely important for nurses to constantly monitor their patients for any signs of breathing difficulties, over sedation or narcotic overdose.

 

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The Antibiotic Gentamycin Can Cause Hearing Loss, Deafness, and “Wobblers”

By The Beasley Firm on February 5, 2012 - No comments

Gentamycin or Gentamicin sulphate is a strong antibiotic that is given intravenously (IV) to help treat bacterial infections.  However, if the dose or level of medication in the body is not properly monitored, it could lead to damage to the inner ears, loss of hearing or deafness.  In some studies, the risk of hearing loss in patients who received Gentamycin was as high as 25 percent.  If hearing loss was due to the antibiotic Gentamycin, it is referred to as Gentamycin induced ototoxicity. 

The antibiotic Gentamicin itself is not dangerous.  The medication becomes toxic when it binds to iron in the blood and produces destructive chemical agents known as free radicals.  Those free radicals can attack the tiny hair cells in the inner ear causing them to be unable to transmit sound impulses to the auditory nerve and brain.  

Many newborns that are born with an infection are frequently placed on Ampicillin and Gentamicin.  In infants and children, the appropriate dose for the antibiotic is calculated by the child’s weight.  If the child’s weight is inaccurate or if there was an error in the drug calculation, a baby can be overdosed with Gentamicin.  If your child was prescribed Gentamycin you would want to make sure the doctors and nurses are performing “peak and trough” level blood tests.  Those tests will show if your baby is getting too much medication.  Many parents are under the impression that their child’s hearing loss was due to an infection, sepsis, prematurity, Group B strep, meningitis, a high bilirubin or kernicterus when in fact, the deafness was caused by the Gentamycin. 

Some adults who received Gentamicin develop symptoms that they attribute to just getting older when in fact; the problems they are having are due to Gentamycin toxicity.  Hearing loss, vertigo or dizziness, tinnitus or ringing in the ears can be caused by previous Gentamicin administration.  Some older adults even develop difficulty with walking or balance and appear as if they are intoxicated.  This unsteady gait is caused by damage to the vestibular system in the ear that is responsible for balance.  Adults who developed this Gentamycin induced balance difficulty have labelled themselves as “wobblers” and have formed support groups to help other individuals who have been harmed by Gentamycin.  

If you, your child, or a family member developed hearing loss, deafness or balance problems after receiving the antibiotic Gentamycin please feel free to call or contact one of our experienced lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291 or by using the contact form at the top of the page, for a strictly confidential and free consultation.  Our experienced Philadelphia drug error teams consist of nurses and doctors who have actually worked in hospitals and administered Gentamycin.  To date, we have had over $2 billion awarded on behalf of our injured clients.  Jim Beasley Jr., MD, JD, has been consistently named in Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers.

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Intravenous Acetaminophen Has Caused Serious Dosing Errors, Especially in Children, That Could Lead To Liver Damage Or Bleeding.

By The Beasley Firm on February 4, 2012 - No comments

Intravenous (IV) acetaminophen was approved for use in the United States in 2011 and already, there have been numerous reports of medication errors or acetaminophen overdoses, especially in children.  Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol which is known to cause liver damage or death in accidental Tylenol overdose cases. 

An article published January 23 in the journal Pediatrics, alerts doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers to be aware of the potential acetaminophen overdose possibility.

Most of the IV acetaminophen overdoses were due to a 10-fold dosing error in children due to improperly calculating the dosage in milligrams (mg), but then administering the medication in milliliters (ml).  The solution is supplied 10mg/ml so the medication error causes a child to receive 10 times the normal recommended dose. 

Within a year’s time frame, there have been 23 reported cases of single or repeated dose errors using the intravenous form of acetaminophen in children under the age of one.  Not only did these dosing errors cause harm to infants or children, it also lead to death. 

Prior to being approved for use in the US, the IV administration of acetaminophen was approved for use in all ages in other countries, but when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave it’s approval for use in the United States, the approval did not include children under the age of 2.  Unfortunately, many times, medications are used off-label, or in situations that were not approved by the FDA.  Because infants and toddlers usually spit out the medicine or refuse to take the medicine by mouth, the next best way to give the acetaminophen was IV.  The easy way is not always the better way. 

Healthcare providers need to establish written policies, protocols and preventative measures to assure that the correct dose of IV acetaminophen is administered to small children.  That may also mean that hospitals need to include the hospital pharmacy or a pharmacist on staff to be the second set of eyes so IV acetaminophen overdoses do not happen.  

Acetaminophen is primarily metab0lized in the liver so any acetaminophen overdose can lead to liver damage.  This can happen even quicker in patients who have some level of underlying liver damage due to alcohol, infections or prescription medications.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently recommends that anyone who consumes more than three alcoholic beverages per day should not take acetaminophen. 

Signs of too much acetaminophen or Tylenol poisoning can be nausea, vomiting, an overall ill feeling, poor appetite and abdominal pains.  If not promptly diagnosed and treated right away, it could lead to liver damage, abnormal blood clotting, hemorrhage or even death. 

If you or a loved one suffered from an intravenous medication mistake or Tylenol overdose that led to liver damage, bleeding, or death, please feel free to contact one of our experienced lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.  Our medication error teams have worked in some of the best Philadelphia hospitals in the emergency department or intensive care units and are very familiar with the injuries a medication error or acetaminophen overdose can cause.  To date, we have had numerous million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements awarded on behalf of our injured clients.  Jim Beasley Jr., MD, JD, has consistently been mentioned in Best Lawyers and Philadelphia Super Lawyers. 

 

 

 

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Electronic Prescribing Of Medications Can Help Reduce Drug Errors.

By The Beasley Firm on February 2, 2012 - No comments

According to a study posted on MedPage Today, electronic prescribing or e-prescribing significantly reduces the amount of drug or medication errors.

Researchers for the University of New South Wales examined 3,291 patient records for medication mistakes before and after the implementation of electronic prescribing programs.  Each patient’s chart was reviewed for clinical errors, incomplete or unclear drug orders, and incorrect medication or dosing.

The study found that in three different areas of the hospital, medication error rates dropped by 58 to 66 percent as compared to the units that did not use an e-prescribing system.  The researches said that “the study showed that e-prescribing leads to a “statistically significant reduction in total prescribing error rates by more that 55%, driven by the substantial reductions in incomplete, illegal, and unclear orders.” 

But, as we all know, nothing is fail-proof.  The researches also noted that e-prescribing systems can also cause medication errors.  In addition to software design glitches, a wrong medication, dose, or route can be accidently selected from a drop-down menu.  Johanna Westbrook, the lead author of the study and director of the Center for Health Systems and Safety Research at the University of South Wales, indicated that approximately 35% of the medication errors that happened after the e-prescribing system was installed, were related to software design failures. 

Even though e-prescribing systems look promising in reducing the amount of medication errors, there are still some glitches that need to be worked out.  In the meantime, nurses and doctors still should remember the 5 R’s: Right Patient, Right Route, Right Dose, Right Time, and Right Medication. 

Unfortunately, despite all the advances to help eliminate or reduce medication mistakes, drug errors still occur.  Many times, the medication error will not cause any long term damage to a patient.  However, some medication errors can lead to cardiogenic shock, cardiac arrhythmias, anaphylactic shock or allergic reactions, Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS), hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), brain damage or even death.  One medication error can be one too many when it comes to a patient’s life. 

Here at the Beasley medication mistake law firm, we have on staff experienced doctors and nurses who have worked in hospitals and administered medications.  We are very familiar with all the proper policies, procedures and safety precautions related to proper medication administration.  If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medication mistake or drug error, please feel free to contact one of our experienced lawyers, physicians or nurses at 1.888.823.5291 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.  Our Firm has been awarded two of the highest medical malpractice verdicts in Pennsylvania and Jim Beasley Jr. has been consistently named in Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers.  To date, we have had over $2 billion awarded on behalf of our injured clients. 

 

 

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