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Medication errors can have serious consequences in nursing homes

Patients in California nursing homes are often in vulnerable positions. Often elderly and unable to care for themselves, these patients rely on the treatment of the nursing home staff and the facility's nurses and doctors to ensure their safety and proper care. Nonetheless, these employees can make serious medication errors, particularly as it pertains to prescription drugs. The federal government has taken notice of this phenomenon and is requesting action.

Pursuant to a recent memorandum, the federal government has requested that health inspectors pay close attention to prescription medication errors related to the use of the blood thinner Coumadin, or its generic counterpart, in nursing homes. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Coumadin is frequently involved in adverse drug events, which is frightening, given how often it is prescribed. Federal data indicates that of the 1.3 million people living in nursing homes, approximately one in six take an anticoagulant, and it is believed that most of these people are taking Coumadin or its generic form.

The failure of a nursing home to properly manage this drug can lead to serious injury or even patient death. A government report found that at least 165 nursing home residents suffered serious injury or death following a dosage mistake of Coumadin or its generic form over a three-year period. The dosage mistakes ranged from too little of the drug to too much, with patients suffering everything from strokes and blood clots to internal bleeding.

While Coumadin and its generic form can provide health benefits for patients if used properly, the failure of nursing home staff to properly monitor the drug's dosage and patients' use of the drug can lead to significant consequences. Victims and their families may have the right to pursue a medical malpractice claim against a nursing home or other health care facility that negligently administer this drug.

Source: Washington Post, "Feds: More scrutiny needed of nursing home errors involving blood thinner," Charles Ornstein, August 3, 2015

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