ADVERSE DRUG REACTIONS

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QUICK FACTS

  • Adverse drug reactions can occur spontaneously or when two or more medications interact.  They can also occur due to interactions between medications and dietary supplements.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 60% of adverse drug reactions are preventable.
  • 6.7% of hospitalized patients suffer drug interactions of varying severity.
  • In the United States, the annual cost for treating adverse drug reactions is estimated at between 5 and 7 billion dollars.

ADVERSE DRUG REACTIONS

Overview

An adverse drug reaction is defined as an injury caused by a medication. As more and more prescription medications and dietary supplements enter the market, the potential for adverse drug reactions increases. Most of these drug injuries, which frequently cause severe and irreversible harm, are preventable.

Before any medical practitioner prescribes a new medication or dietary supplement, they are required to perform a thorough patient assessment. The assessment is focused on obtaining accurate patient information, including information on the medications and supplements they are already taking. In addition, the medical practitioner must critically analyze the patient’s existing medication regimen for appropriateness, effectiveness and safety. A key part of every patient assessment is to recognize and appropriately resolve any potential drug interactions.

More and more, medical practitioners rely on electronic guides to alert them to possible drug interactions. These electronic aids take the form of computer programs that can be uploaded onto mobile devices or are built into patient record-keeping systems. However, these programs are not infallible. Several studies have indicated that the electronic aids most commonly used by physicians miss potential drug interactions as often as 20% of the time.

Examples Of Adverse Drug Reactions:

Pain & Anti-Anxiety Medications

Patients with severe and chronic pain are commonly prescribed narcotic pain medications. Narcotics (opiates) are extremely powerful drugs with several potential side effects. The most life-threatening of these side-effects is respiratory depression, a condition where the body’s drive to breathe is diminished. This can cause a patient’s breathing to slow or even stop, resulting in irreversible brain damage or even death. Narcotic pain medications that can cause respiratory depression include Vicodin, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Fentanyl and Morphine (often prescribed in patches or via pump administration).

Several popular anti-anxiety drugs, commonly known as “Benzodiazepines,” can also cause severe respiratory depression, brain damage and death. These include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan and Restoril.

By themselves, pain and anti-anxiety medications can cause respiratory depression if prescribed at inappropriate doses. Because of this, medical practitioners must carefully perform accurate patient assessments to avoid overdoses. In addition, prescriptions of these drugs are commonly limited to 15 or 30 day supplies to avoid abuse and promote close-interval monitoring. However, sometimes mistakes are made.

Occasionally, medical practitioners have patients with complex needs requiring both pain medications and anti-anxiety drugs. However, when Narcotics and Benzodiazepines are combined, the respiratory depressant effects are intensified. This greatly increases the risk of injuries caused by the interaction of these drugs. It should also be noted that using these pain and anti-anxiety medications with alcohol can also result in a harmful drug interaction.

If you believe that you or a loved one suffered an injury or death as a result of a Narcotic or anti-anxiety drug overdose/interaction, you want a law firm with the knowledge and experience to provide you with the answers you deserve. Please call us for a free consultation.

Antibiotics

In the 1940’s, the widespread use of Penicillin to treat bacterial infections began. This launched a revolution in medicine, as previously deadly infections were now curable. However, approximately 10% of the population is allergic to Penicillin and its variants. As a result, drug manufacturers raced to find alternatives to Penicillin, including new generations of antibiotics focused on treating specific strains of bacteria.

However, studies have concluded that antibiotics are responsible for up to 40.9% of adverse drug reactions. These can range from simple allergic skin reactions to organ failure and death. As a result, medical practitioners must prescribe antibiotics carefully to avoid the potential for allergic reactions and other side effects.

Many antibiotics, especially those prescribed for long-term use, require special monitoring. For example, long-term Vancomycin use can result in renal toxicity/kidney failure. Another example is the antibiotic Augmentin (a form of Amoxicillin), which can cause liver disease with prolonged use. Medical practitioners must use caution when prescribing these antibiotics to patients with preexisting kidney and liver problems. In addition, when prescribing these antibiotics on a long-term basis, special blood tests may be required to monitor the patient’s kidney and liver function.

Another antibiotic that requires special monitoring is Gentamicin, a broad spectrum antibiotic that is administered intravenously to treat complex bacterial infections. Studies show that approximately 10% of Gentamicin patients suffer some level of kidney damage, and 11% suffer vestibular damage to their inner ear (resulting in severe and often permanent hearing and balance disorders). These injuries are “dose dependent,” meaning the higher the dose given, the greater the chance that the patient will be harmed. Initial doses are precisely calculated based upon the patient’s weight, and special monitoring protocols have been developed to avoid the harmful effects of Gentamicin toxicity. This monitoring includes frequent “peak & trough” tests to assess the serum levels of Gentamicin in the blood, ensuring they do not reach toxic levels. When performed properly, these tests greatly reduce the risk of Gentamicin toxicity. However, if these protocols are not properly followed, severe and permanent injuries, and even death, can result.

Our attorneys have decades of experience in analyzing cases of medication injuries caused by antibiotics. Call us if you believe that you or a loved one was injured due to an adverse drug reaction caused by antibiotics.

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