Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Put me on the jury

This is not a funny post so you can move along now.

Last night on 60 minutes they did a story about the actor Dennis Quaid and his wife. They recently had twins and while their kids were in the hospital a mistake was made and they were given an adult dosage of medication which almost killed them. It was an interesting piece because it brought to light the little known fact that about 100,000 people die every year because of preventable errors in healthcare. Dennis Quaid and his wife are now suing the drug manufacturer. So, let me just take a moment to defend something that very few people are willing to defend these days: a pharmaceutical company.

The drug in question comes in two different forms: an adult dosage and an infant dosage. One comes with a dark blue label and the other one comes with a light blue label. They have a different name (although the names are similar: Heparin and Hep Lock). On a previous occasion when some children were given the adult dosage the company issued an alert reminding people to be sure and read the label before administering the drug to children (what a concept). They also changed the labels on all new shipments. However, they did not recall the old drugs. Here's what Dennis Quaid said:

"After these three kids died in Indiana, they did not issue a recall…They recall toasters…trucks. They recall dog food that came from China last year. But they don’t recall medicine that kills people if you give it in the wrong dosage…we think it’s wrong."

There's an easy way to tell if you are giving the wrong dosage: If it's a 10ml dose it's called Hep-Lok and it has a light-blue label. If it's a 10,000ml dose it's called Heparin and has a dark blue label.

As I've mentioned before, the Quaids are now suing the drug company. What they aren't doing is suing Cedars Sinai Hospital despite the fact that the hospital has admitted that there were three mistakes made: the pharmacist who checked out the drugs put the wrong drug in the box. The person who checked in the drugs in the pediatric ward failed to check the label. Finally, the nurse who administered the drugs did not read the label.

Now, call me crazy but it seems a little odd to me that the drug company is being sued because they produced a drug that was labeled properly. While it would have certainly been conscientious of the company to say, "Hey, some people are making mistakes out there so let's spend a bunch of our own money to recall a correctly labeled drug," I think it would be even more conscientious for the medical professionals at the hospital to actually read the fucking label before they inject it into a baby. Hey, I love those hard-working nurses as much as the next guy but the doctor called for 10ml of Hep-Lok and you injected 10,000ml of Heparin. I can see where it was an easy mistake to make because the bottle was labeled: Heparin, 10,000ml. Oh, that's right, the label was kind of blue so it must be the drug company's fault and not the fault of the three different people at the hospital who never bothered to read the properly labeled drug.

What's so crazy about this case is that not only does Dennis Quaid believe the drug company is liable but the drug company will probably settle for fear that they might actually lose!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do have any idea how much 10,000 ml is? It's 2.64 gallons.

The hep-lock and heparin are in UNITS per ml. Moreover, both are used in adults and on occassion, children. Heplock is used to flush i.v. lines, while, heparin is a blood thinner.

I agree something went horribly wrong in this case but try to report accurate facts.

10:25 PM  

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