Medication Errors & Chronic Kidney Disease

More people today in the United States are dying from drug complications and overdoses than from traffic accidents. Sadly, it is a trend that’s being driven by the pain and anxiety medications such as Vicodin, Xanax, and other drugs that are commonly used by chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients.

According to the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, dosing errors occur frequently in patients with CKD, particularly in the disease’s later stages when the body has a harder time processing drugs and other toxic metabolites. Dosing errors over the last two decades have disturbingly increased the death rate for CKD patients who are in their 50s and 60s.

If you struggle with chronic kidney disease, has medical malpractice made your condition worse? Chronic kidney disease is usually manageable with early and accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, but if a doctor prescribes the wrong drug or the wrong dosage – or if a pharmacist accidentally gives you the wrong drug – your health could quickly deteriorate, and at that point, you may want to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney regarding your legal rights and options, which could include a medical malpractice lawsuit.

EXACTLY WHAT CONSTITUTES MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?

When healthcare professionals do not provide what the profession considers a reasonable standard of care, those professionals are negligent. If that negligence results in your injury, you are a victim of medical malpractice, and you are entitled under the law in every state to full financial compensation, but you’ll need an attorney’s help to obtain that compensation. You can be compensated for your additional medical care and related expenses, for lost income and lost earning potential, and in some cases for your pain and suffering too.

A number of treatments are available for chronic kidney disease. The appropriate treatment depends of the exact kind of kidney disease and how early the disease is detected. Steroids are effective for some kidney diseases, and prescription pharmaceuticals are commonly used to treat several kinds of kidney diseases. No medicine can reverse CKD, but drugs are used to help treat symptoms and complications and to slow further kidney damage.

The medicines that are used to treat the symptoms and complications of chronic kidney disease include:

  • erythropoietin therapy and iron replacement (pills or intravenous iron) for anemia
  • medicines for electrolyte imbalances
  • diuretics to treat fluid buildup
  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs: These may be prescribed if you have too much protein in your urine (proteinuria). Regular blood tests are needed to ensure that ACE inhibitors and ARBs do not raise potassium levels or reduce kidney function even more.

CAN CKD PATIENTS HELP DOCTORS AVOID MEDICATIONS ERRORS?

Both erythropoietin therapy and iron replacement therapy are prescribed during dialysis for anemia, which often accompanies advanced chronic kidney disease. Erythropoietin stimulates the production of red blood cells and may reduce any need for transfusions. Iron replacement therapy can help increase iron levels in the body when erythropoietin therapy alone is ineffective.

Chronic kidney disease and dialysis patients can help to improve their health and help to limit any risk of dosage errors by adhering to these suggestions offered by the FDA:

1 – Find out what drugs are being prescribed to you and why. Have the doctor clearly pronounce the name of the drug for you in case there is any confusion with the pharmacist.

2 – If you are in the hospital, ask your doctor – or have a friend or family member ask for you – what drugs you are being given and why.

3 – Learn how the medication should be taken, and be certain that you understand the directions. If you are directed to take a drug three times daily, does that mean precisely at eight-hours intervals, or does it mean taking the drug with your meals? Should the prescription be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature? Are there other medications, foods, or drinks that you should avoid while taking the prescription?

4 – Always look carefully for any special instructions, and ask your doctor and pharmacist if there is anything else you need to know about any drug that is prescribed to you.

5 – Ask about a medication’s side effects, what you should expect, and what to do about the side effects when you experience them.

6 – Every time you take a medicine, read the label. That helps to ensure that you’ll avoid mistakes. In the middle of the night, or if your vision is poor, you could confuse ear drops with eye drops or take a vitamin when you think you’re taking a painkiller. Have the lights on and read the label every time.

7 – If you have trouble keeping several different prescriptions organized, ask your pharmacist about the plastic containers that have different sections for different drugs and different days. Your pharmacist may be able to recommend something that works for other patients or something that’s just right for you. Family members can also help by not letting you forget to take your medicines at the right times.

8 – Make a list of every drug that you take, including prescribed medicines, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, vitamins, medicinal herbs, and any other substances you take, including alcohol, tobacco, and/or cannabis. Share this list with your doctor and pharmacist. Don’t forget items like vitamins, laxatives, creams, and ointments.

9 – Ask questions, don’t forget to ask questions, and always remember to ask questions. If in doubt, ask questions. You want to keep problems from happening before they become problems. For example, if your pills look different when your prescription is refilled, ask why. Also, be sure to ask why if you’re given a different or new drug or new directions for using a drug. It’s always better to be cautious. There’s nothing at all wrong with being known as “the patient who always asks lots of questions.”

HOW COMMON ARE MEDICATION ERRORS?

Medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure more than one million people every year in the United States. When you’re dealing with chronic kidney disease, you expect that the drugs you take should be helping you. If they harm you, you’ve probably been prescribed the wrong medicine or the wrong dosage, and at that point, you are probably a victim of medical malpractice.

An experienced medical malpractice attorney can fight for the monetary compensation that a malpractice victim needs and for the justice a victim deserves. If you or someone you love is struggling with chronic kidney disease and becomes a victim of medical malpractice, speak immediately to an experienced medical malpractice attorney regarding the case, your rights, and your legal options.

By: Jed Kurzban

Medical malpractice attorney Jed Kurzban graduated from the University of Alabama in 1992 and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 1995. He is a member of the Dade County Bar Association, the Florida Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, and the American Bar Association. Mr. Kurzban is happily married and the father of two.