Medication Error and Overdose Leads to Suit Against Drug Manufacturer

Article posted on:12/18/2007

As reported in numerous media outlets last week, actor Randy Quaid filed a lawsuit against Baxter International, a pharaceutical company, after his infant twins were given an overose of the Baxter-manufacturerd blood thinner heparin at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The suit alleges that Baxter was negligent because the company's packaging design for heparin contributed to the hospital mix-up in the dosage. The suit notes that Baxter produces two vials of two different strengths, each with a blue background. One strength has a concentration of 10 units of heparin per milliliter, and the other has a concentration of 10,000 units per milliliter. The hospital administered the product that was 1000 times as strong. The suit contends Baxter was negligent because it knew that three infants died last year as a result of a similar heparin overdose related to packaging confusion but failed to recall the product or issue a warning to hospitals. The Quaid twins have recovered from the overdosage and the lawsuit seeks to bring awareness of the frequency of medication overdoses to the general public.

Medication errors and overdose occur at an alarming rate.

Medication errors generally fall into one of several categories:  prescription errors, dispensing errors, medication administration errors and/or patience compliance errors.  Generally speaking, all hospitals and pharmacists should have in place organization systems for administering, ordering, and dispensing medications.   For example, before dispensing a medication in a non-emergency setting, a pharmacist should review an original copy of the written medication order and participate in a self checking process in reading prescriptions, labeling the prescription and dosage calculations.   Pharmacists should never guess or assume the intent of a confusing medication order.  The physician and pharmacist must communicate in those situations to avoid an error.  Medication prescribers, such as doctors, should evaluate the patient's total status before ordering a new medication so as to ensure that the new medication will not adversely interact with medications the patient is currently taking.  Moreover, health care providers should work to ensure that the dosage level for each medication is correct and will not adversely affect the patient or the existing medications of the patient. 

As experienced medical malpractice attorneys in Baltimore, Maryland, we routinely handle medication error cases against area hospitals and pharmacies. In many instances, these cases settle prior to trial because the liability of the physician or pharmacist is clear. For example, our office has successfully handled cases in which a pharmacist erroneously filled a patient's prescription for Tegretol extended release tablets (for seizures) with generic Tegretol (regular release). This caused our client to suffer unnecessary seizures and a complicated hospitalization course. In addition, we successfully resolved a case in which our client was prescribed medication to assist her with sleeping, but instead received blood pressure medication from the hospital pharmacy. Each of these cases was resolved prior to trial.

If you or a loved one believe you have been the victim of a medication error, call the lawyers at STSW for a free consultation or visit our website to set up your appointment directly.  Our lawyers typically handle these matters on a contingent fee basis, meaning that our office lays out the expenses in advance of the litigation and our clients only owe us money if we are successful by way of settlement or trial or on appeal.