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Last week, a pharmacist gave a woman the wrong medication. As is so often the case, the patient did not realize that an error had been made until after taking the medication — and potentially suffering the consequences. In this case, the woman was pregnant, and the drug the pharmacist gave her is sometimes used to induce abortions.
The pharmacy’s mistake was neither small nor harmless, and the eventual outcome is still unclear. The woman who was the victim of the medication error can now only hope that the consequences are not catastrophic. While she may still give birth to a perfectly healthy child, exposure to the drug could cause her baby to be born with serious disabilities. It may also place the life of the fetus in jeopardy.
Fetus Put at Risk by Medication Mix-Up
The 19-year-old woman was six weeks pregnant when she went to her pharmacy to pick up an antibiotic. Instead she was given a drug called methotrexate, which is a powerful anti-cancer medication. The drug stops cells from dividing, and has been prescribed in “MTX abortions” because of its anti-cell-division properties, which can terminate a pregnancy.
Apparently, the methotrexate prescription had been filled for another customer at the same pharmacy, a 59-year-old woman whose name is similar to that of the pregnant 19-year-old.
When the woman became nauseated after taking the incorrect medication, she looked at the bottle and realized the mistake. At a nearby hospital, she was given charcoal to absorb the drug.
The pharmacy has issued a written statement apologizing for the mistake and offering to pay “any medical expenses incurred as a result of the prescription error.”
As the woman has said, “Sorry’s not going to cut it. I’m going to have to deal with this for a long time. My baby could have deformities. There’s a lot that goes with it.”
Pennsylvania medication error attorneys point out that this is not a case where a patient simply did not respond well to treatment, or in which a choice was made by a medical professional using a valid rationale, but whose choice eventually proved to be incorrect.
On the contrary, this was a case in which there was a procedure in place to prevent exactly this type of medical error. The pharmacy’s standard procedure was to confirm each customer’s name, address, and date of birth. The standard was not followed, with potentially life-threatening consequences.
This case is a textbook example of the type of preventable medical error that causes so much needless suffering to individuals and families in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.
Source: Reuters “Colorado pharmacy mistake puts woman’s pregnancy at risk” 2/8/2011