Florida Nursing Home Medication Mistake Attorneys
A nursing home medication error is defined as any preventable, drug-related error. Medication errors can occur at any time from the moment a prescription is written to the moment a medicine is ingested. Potential medication errors can arise while ordering, recording, storing, and administering a medicine. Medication errors are much more likely in nursing homes because almost all patients in the facility receive some form or prescription medicine and administering med tech’s are not always properly trained or qualified. In 2005, it was estimated that over 800,000 medication errors occurred in nursing homes. With the population of elderly patients expected to double between the years 2000 and 2025, it can only be expected that the risk for medication errors will drastically increase as well. When nursing homes make mistakes with patient prescriptions, the effect can be deadly. Medication mistakes are responsible for over 1 million wrongful deaths per year. If your family member was victimized by a prescription drug mistake in an nursing home, call the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at the Senior Justice Law Firm now at 1-844-253-8919 or fill out the claim evaluator.
Examples of Medication Errors
Nearly half of all medication errors occur while administering the drug to the patient. A patient’s medication is typically administered by a licensed nurse. In some situations, the medication can be delivered to a patient by a trained employee who is supervised by a licensed nurse.
Any deviation from a physician’s orders, manufacturer’s instructions, government’s regulations, or facility’s protocols is considered a medication error. Common examples of medication errors include the following:
|Use of expired product||Wrong form of medication used|
|Incorrect documentation||Pills crushed when forbidden by manufacturer|
|Incorrect dosage or infusion rate||No fluids/food provided per directions|
|Omission of dose(s)||Medications not shaken/mixed per directions|
|Too many doses (overdosing)||Suspension given with air bubbles in it|
|Medication given to the wrong patient||Patients permitted to swallow sublingual tablets
|Medication given at the wrong time|
It has been reported that medication errors are a greater risk for the following drugs:
- Antipsychotic and antidepressant medicines (lorazepam)
- pain medicines (oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl)
- anticoagulants (warfarin, Coumadin)
- diuretics (furosemide)
- anti-seizure medicines (clonazepam)
Common Drugs Which are Dosed or Administered Incorrectly to Nursing Home Patients
There are literally thousands of prescription drugs that are taken by nursing home residents daily. However, elderly patients in facilities take certain drugs more frequently than others. Common prescriptions which result in nursing home medication errors include:
|Oxycontin (Opiod Pain Killers)||Anti-Seizure Meds (Anticonvulsants)|
|Antibiotics||Chemotherapy and Cancer Drugs|
|Oxycodone||Vicodin and Codeine|
Causes of Medication Errors
The most common cause for medication errors is basic human error. Another notable cause is poor communication between doctors, nurses and the pharmacy. Patients’ treatment plans are often relayed over short phone calls and conversations between medical staff. Important information such as the patient’s other medical conditions, entire drug regime, and previous lab results can often be overlooked during these short exchanges. Other causes for medication errors include the following:
|Lack of pharmaceutical knowledge||Confusion with the medication name|
|Inadequate training||Confusion with a similar sounding drug|
|Improper labeling||Medication unavailable|
|Transcription error||Too much workload or overtime|
|Illegible handwriting||Shift change|
|Use of abbreviated drug names||Distractions|
Effects of Medication Errors on Nursing Home Patients
The effects of medication errors vary greatly due to the wide range of drugs available. Thankfully, the majority of medication errors (nearly 90%) do not have any effect on the patient. This should by no means trivialize the seriousness of these medication errors, but if the patient does not have a serious adverse health event, the medication mistake does not usually warrant a lawsuit. Medication errors that may result in only minor discomfort to a healthy patient can still prove to be fatal in vulnerable nursing home residents. For example, one missed dose of laxative will likely cause slight constipation for the patient. This is not considered serious. However, if this medication error is repeated (multiple missed doses of laxative) in a nursing home resident, the result could be fecal impaction, ruptured colon, intestinal perforation, sepsis, or even death. In 1994, a government study found that medication errors were the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Adverse effects of medication errors include prescription overdose, wrongful death, paralysis, brain damage, heart attack, stroke, gastrointestinal issues (i.e. nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea), orthostatic hypotension, fluid imbalance, confusion, sedation, and allergic reactions (i.e. rash, swelling, and respiratory issues). The anticoagulant drug warfarin (brand name Coumadin) has been noted to be one drug that has serious effects when misused. Medication errors involving warfarin Coumadin can result in life-threatening bleeds or clotting deaths. Because Coumadin is such a commonly prescribed drug in nursing home patients, as nursing home abuse lawyers, we have handled numerous Coumadin drug error cases. A warfarin overdose (also known as warfarin toxicity) or underdose of Coumadin can have grave health effects, such as internal bleeding. Coumadin acts as a blood thinner and is vital to keeping patients from developing blood clots. If the nursing home misses the script and fails to give Coumadin to the at-risk resident, they may develop a blood clot and die. If Coumadin is overdosed, the patient may suffer internal bleeding and wrongfully die from warfarin toxicity.
Prevention of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes
One of the best prevention methods against medication errors is the use of an error reporting system. By recording and monitoring the medication errors that occur within a nursing home, personnel are better able to diagnose and correct the root cause of the medication mistake. Corrective measures include the proper training of nurses, improved communication between the nursing home and off-site physicians, eliminating the use of abbreviations, better organization of medications, and implementation of computerized ordering systems. The nursing home facility should also use a system of checks and balances when communicating with pharmacy personnel so that the drugs dosages are given to:
- The right patient
- The right dose
- The right time
Concerns for Nursing Home Patients
Medication errors are prone to occur in nursing homes. Nonetheless, nursing homes must never ignore a medication error. Every medication error in the nursing home needs to be acknowledged for three reasons:
- Patient health – A medication error has the potential of jeopardizing the patient’s life. Staff must react to all medication errors so as to rectify or ameliorate any harm caused to the patient.
- Error reporting – A medication error must be logged in the nursing home’s records. This is to ensure that the nursing home maintains an acceptable level of operation per state and federal regulations. Nursing homes with too many medication errors (greater than 5%) will be cited by investigators.
- Medical Malpractice – Medication errors must be acknowledged so as to determine whether it was caused by an employee’s blatant negligence or mishandling. If this is the case, the nursing home is liable for malpractice.
Lawsuits Regarding Medication Errors in Nursing Homes
As discussed above, medication errors are generally caused by basic human error, which can legally be classified as nursing home negligence. However, medication errors can also be caused by malpractice or negligence on the part of the discharging hospital, the doctor writing the prescription or the pharmacy that filled the prescription. In many of our past medication mistake lawsuits, we have sued multiple defendants in the case, because multiple healthcare providers were negligent in their monitoring of the patient’s prescriptions.
If a nursing home patient is seriously injured due to a prescription drug mistake, victims are entitled to seek legal recourse through a medication error claim. Instances of malpractice or negligence that can result in medication errors are described below:
- A nurse purposefully changes the dosage, adds medication, or stops giving medication on his/her own prerogative without a physician’s order.
- A nurse mistakenly gives patient A’s prescription drug to patient B.
- A nurse steals a patient’s drugs for his/her own personal use.
- A nurse does not notify any physicians or medical staff of a patient’s refusal to take their medicine.
- Management neglects their stock and allows medicine to run out of supply.
- Nurse A gives the patient a proper dose of his drug during her shift but fails to document it in the chart. Then Nurse B starts her shift and gives the patient the same dose of the drug and overdoses the patient.
- The medications are stored in a disorderly and unorganized manner, resulting in mistakes.
- A nurse gets lazy and fails to give prescriptions during her shift.
- The pharmacy fills a script for a certain drug dosage, but the nurse gives much more or much less than what was originally ordered.
- The pharmacy misreads the doctor’s prescription and gives the nursing home the wrong drug, and the nursing home fails to catch the error.
If you or a loved one were injured due to a drug errors, contact our medical malpractice lawyers now. No patient should suffer such disregard for their health and well-being. Our attorneys are here to help you and your family gets answers during this tough chapter of your life. Call us now for your free medication mistake lawsuit evaluation at 1-844-253-8919.
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Gurwitz, Jerry, “Medication Safety in Nursing Homes: What’s Wrong and How to Fix It.” Aug. 2012.
Mitchell, J.F. “Uh Oh, Did ‘I’ Do That? Medication Errors in Long-Term Care.” University of Michigan.
Pierson S., Hansen R., Greene S., Williams C., Akers R., Jonsson M., and Carey T. “Preventing Medication Errors in Long-Term Care: Results and Evaluation of a Large Scale Web-Based Error Reporting System.” Quality and Safety in Health Care. Aug. 16, 2007, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 297-302.