Nursing home medication errors can occur at any time. A medication error is defined as any preventable, drug-related mistake occurring from the moment a prescription is written to when the patient ingests it. Medication errors can arise while prescribing, filling, recording, storing, and administering a medicine. Medication errors occur more often in nursing homes, because almost all patients in the facility receive some form of prescription medicine, and administering personnel are not always properly trained or qualified.
According to a recent article in ProPublica, in 2014, the Federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General reported that, during one surveyed month, slightly over 20 percent of residents in a ”Skilled Nursing Facility” (SNF) experienced at least “one adverse event” (medication error). Doctors who reviewed these patients’ records concluded that 59 percent of the errors and injuries were preventable. More than half of those harmed residents had to be readmitted to the hospital. The estimated cost was $208 million for the month studied by the IG, or about two percent of Medicare’s total inpatient spending for the surveyed month.
Drugs Often Associated with Nursing Home Medication Errors
Tens of thousands of prescription drugs are given to nursing home residents every day. However, elderly SNF patients take certain drugs more frequently than others. Some – not all – of the common prescription-error cases in elderly care facilities include:
• Anti-seizure drugs
• Cancer drugs
• Heart medications
There are also dozens of possible causes of medication errors. Some of the most common causes include:
• Incorrect prescription
• Incorrect transcription of prescription or dose
• Confusion when administering medication
• Understaffed facilities and/or neglect
• Unanticipated drug interactions with other prescriptions.
Effects of Nursing Home Medication Errors on Patients
Because of the wide range of drugs prescribed to senior care residents, the effects of medication errors vary greatly. So only a small percentage of these errors (10 percent) have an effect on the patient, and maybe one or two percent will have serious ramifications. The number of incidents which actually warrant a malpractice lawsuit is extremely small. This should by no means, however, trivialize the seriousness of all medication errors, regardless of whether or not the patient is seriously affected.
Adverse effects of medication errors include prescription overdose, wrongful death, paralysis, brain damage, heart attack, stroke, gastrointestinal issues (such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea), orthostatic hypotension, fluid imbalance, confusion, sedation, and allergic reactions (such as a rash, swelling, and respiratory issues). The anticoagulant drug Warfarin (or Coumadin) is one particular prescription drug that has numerous serious side-effects when misused.
There’s another dubious story on the nursing home medication front — possibly a more pernicious one.
A recent investigation by CNN uncovered covert and growing use of Nuedexta in a large number of nursing homes throughout the U.S.. Nuedexta is a new drug to treat the Pseudobulbar affect (PBA – also known as emotional incontinence). And though it is approved by the FDA for “anyone with PBA,” including those with a variety of neurological conditions such as dementia, Nuedexta’s manufacturer, Avanir Pharmaceuticals, admits it has not extensively tested the drug on elderly patients. Avinar’s confession has critics, and a growing number of government health officials, accusing the drugmaker of essentially conducting uncontrolled drug experiments on unsuspecting, non-consenting elderly patients.
If a family member has suffered from medication errors or improper prescriptions in a nursing home or some other senior care facility, the Johnson Law Firm understands your concern and can help if you contact us at 606-437-4488 or fill out this online form to arrange a confidential, and free consultation.