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News Stories

Nursing Home Investigation Reveals Vulnerable Elderly Given Wrong Meds

An investigation by the California Department of Public Health into California nursing homes revealed that some nursing home residents may face an increased risk of improper medication through pharmacist mistake and prescription errors.

Out of the 32 nursing homes investigated, over half had pharmacists who did not “red-flag” instances where residents inappropriately received powerful antipsychotic medications such as those used to treat schizophrenia. Pharmacists also committed routine mistakes that led to patients receiving incorrect or dangerous combinations of prescriptions, the state investigation showed.

One reason for the frequency of errors, the report speculated, was that the pharmacists are often paid well below market value for their work. This incentivizes pharmacists to continue providing as much medication to nursing home residents as they can.

The alarming rate of medication errors in nursing homes is part of a larger trend of nursing home abuse that presents a growing concern for the elderly and their loved ones. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates millions of elders suffer mistreatment every year, and that for every case that is reported, five go unreported.

Pharmacist Negligence and Prescription Errors

According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs Board of Pharmacy, pharmacy misconduct encompasses:

  • The pharmacist failing to inform the patient of how and when to take the medication and explain its side effects

  • A non-pharmacist filling the prescription or instructing the patient without a pharmacist present

  • The pharmacist being impaired by drugs or alcohol, or working in an unsanitary environment

Prescription errors include:

  • Prescriptions filled with the wrong dosage or drug

  • Prescriptions filled with expired drugs

  • Incorrect labeling

  • Prescriptions filled with generic drugs instead of brand names without informing the patient

Nursing home abuse is not limited to pharmaceutical malpractice, but can encompass many forms ranging from physical and emotional abuse to financial exploitation. However, due to the vulnerability of nursing home residents, who tend to take multiple medications, prescription errors are especially problematic. According to the American Pharmacists Association, for every 250 prescriptions filled there are four prescription errors. Nationwide, this means millions of prescription errors occur every year.

If you or a loved one may have received improper medication because of pharmacist error, contact an attorney experienced in obtaining compensation for nursing home negligence and prescription errors.