Bradley’s Take: The Sad State of the Pharma Industry

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Way back in 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a report entitled “To Err is Human: Building A Safer Health System”, which estimated that up to 98,000 people a year died as a result of hospital mistakes.  Unfortunately, the data for that report was based on medical record reviews from 1984 and did not have access to more evidence-based studies which have been conducted and published since 2008.

But now, thanks to a new research study in the Journal of Patient Safety conducted by John T. James, Ph.D. (who oversees the advocacy group Patient Safety America, an organization he founded in honor of his 19-year-old son who died in 2002 as the result of what he describes as negligent hospital care), we know that medical errors leading to patient death are actually much higher than previously thought, and may be as high as 400,000 deaths a year.

The new study reveals that each year preventable adverse events lead to the death of 210,000-400,000 patients who seek care at a hospital.  Those figures would make medical errors the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, according to CDC statistics.

More specifically, it is estimated that there are over 51 million medication errors during the filling of 3 billion prescriptions each year, and of that, over 1.3 million people are injured each year because of these medication errors, which cost in excess of $29 billion per year, with one estimate being as high as $72 billion in unnecessary costs each year. The most shocking of these pharmacy malpractice statistics, however, is the fact that nearly 100,000 people die every year as a result of medication mistakes.  In hospitals alone, research shows that at least 400,000 drug-related injuries occur each year, which translates to approximately one medication error per patient per day. 
 Another 800,000 drug-related injuries occur in long-term care settings, such as nursing homes.

Given these outrageous statistics, it’s time for a change in the pharmacy industry.   Some have advocated an automated pharmacy carousel system.  Others have described changing the nomenclature of different classes of drugs.  In any circumstance, if you’ve been injured by a pharmacy or medication error, you need to seek counsel with experience in this area.

— Bradley I. Kramer, MD, Esq.
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