In 2014, a 26-year-old Georgia woman went to her doctor to treat her depression. Instead, she experienced a life-threatening reaction to the medication her physician had prescribed. Initially, she had no negative reaction, but two weeks into using the medication, she experienced “excruciating pain,” and felt like she was “on fire,” and her skin was burning from the inside out. USA TODAY reports.
Her doctor had prescribed lamotrigine, a medication prescribed as an anticonvulsant and the maintenance treatment of psychiatric disorders including bipolar disorder, depression, according to PubMed. A pending lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff received an incorrect dosage, and her pharmacy did not catch it. The plaintiff was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson (SJS) syndrome, a rare skin disorder. Since the reactions resemble the flu, it often gets dismissed and is not taken seriously as an allergic reaction.
In addition to extreme pain, SJS causes red or purple skin lesions that may cover up to 30 percent of the body. The rash may spread quickly and cause skin cells to die. After the skin cells die, the skin begins to flake off from the body, often in large sheets.
The plaintiff had previously had flawless skin that was now burned and scarred. She is slowly losing her vision, her sweat glands are gone, and her finger nails will never grow back. She believes her condition is a result of incorrect dosage, and the mistake was made by the pharmacy, according to USA TODAY.
National law firm Parker Waichman LLP has extensive experience and success representing clients in pharmaceutical litigation. Attorneys at the firm are available to answer questions for any individuals seeking legal information for a potential lawsuit.
Alarming Rate of Medication Errors
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that medication errors have increased from 16,689 in 2010 to over 93,930 in 2016. This is almost a 463 percent error increase. The statistics come from the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), a database that has information on adverse event and medication error reports, although the numbers may be higher as it is a voluntary reporting system.
The FDA claims the spike in number is a result of improvements in the reporting system implemented over the last two years. The pharmacy industry experts also think the increase in the amount of errors reflect that more people are filling prescriptions than ever before.
Efforts to Reduce Medication Errors
A pharmacy professor, Matt Perri, believes there could be benefits to the number a pharmacist can fill in a given time. To that end, some states have tried to limit the number of prescriptions a pharmacist can fill to be approximately 150 per shift.
“If you’re filling (300) or 400 prescriptions by yourself, that’s clearly way too much for one pharmacist,” notes Perri. “The idea of setting limits is unappealing on the business perspective, but on a patient safety perspective it would be a good thing if we had a general idea of where those limits were.”
When pharmacists are too rushed and too busy, pharmacy technologists may fill prescriptions and do not have the training and experience a pharmacist has. This may very well add to the increasing rate of medication errors, reports USA TODAY.
Prognosis for the Plaintiff
The plaintiff spent five weeks in a medically induced coma while her skin peeled off slowly. There is no known cure for Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and a relapse is possible. “They’re telling me this could happen again, and they’re telling me if it did happen again, that it would be worse,” the plaintiff said.
Medical bills have already exceeded $3.45 million, according to the lawsuit filed on her behalf. Extensive and prolonged medical care are anticipated to add to those bills, according to USA TODAY.
“I never heard of Stevens-Johnson syndrome until I was in the hospital with my skin melting off my body. That’s when I learned what it was,” the plaintiff said. She said it is a lesson no one should have to learn. “It’s important to know what’s in your body. Be an advocate for yourself. Educate before you medicate,” the plaintiff said. “Know what the side effects are.”
Side effects are unavoidable with any pharmaceutical or over-the-counter drugs. When the benefit outweighs the potential risk, physicians typically prescribe medication. SJS is a drug whose risks are so severe that extra care must be taken in the decision whether or not to use the drug.
Legal Help Regarding Pharmaceutical Side Effects
If you or someone you know has been injured by the side effects of medications, you may be eligible for valuable compensation. The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).