October 25, 2012

How the Outbreak Happened: Compounding Firm's Poor Track Record

by Levin & Perconti

So how exactly did this fungal meningitis outbreak happen? Was it an innocent mistake that could not have been prevented? Are the risk factors that caused this accident the same that affect other pharmaceutical compounding plants across the country? Is there anything that can be done to ensure no more families are forced to endure what thousands are enduring now in the wake of this deadly spinal steroid contamination?

These and similar questions are being asked by invovled parties across the country. We need to get to the bottom of this fiasco while ensuring all those affected are supported and those accountable are held to task.

It is far too early to make any definitive statements about this exact case. However, investigators, including many from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as intrepid individual researchers, have uncovered details about the history and goings-on at the compounding plant. The information presented thus far is not pretty.

Past Pharmacy Safety Problems
For example, a recent Journal Gazette story discussed how state investigators released information about terrible conditions aneara "cleaning room" in the now-temporarily closed facility. They noted that there was a leaking boiler near the room, an obvious safety risk. On top of that, visible black specks of fungus were found inside steroids in the plant. In addition, thousands of the contaminated products were apparently sent out by the company before test results came back on the safety of the steroids. This is what allowed the problem to occur.

The state has already moved to take some preliminary action in the case. Steps have been initiated to revoke the license of the facility as well as the licenses of three individual pharmacists who were allegedly linked to the disaster. Yet, the governor of the state where the plant is located made clear that these preliminary steps were still insufficient. He has already made calls for changes which allow more oversight of these facilites, including the ability to make more surprise inspections. As in the case of nursing home quality standards, the ability to take important steps like surprise inspections is a crucial way to ensure the full weight of state power is put to bear to mandate reasonable safety standards.

Legal Accountability
Obviously the patients who received the shots hundreds of miles away from this plant would never suspect that the drug that their clinic gave them would have been created in such deplorable conditions. However, because of the decentrilized nature of our consumer system today, these sorts of situations are liable to happen when certain actors (like pharmaceutical companies) do not prioritize safety. It is simply impossible for patients (or sometimes even the doctors who receive the drug shipments) to be able to individually identify the risk of contamination. There is no way to operate without some trust in the manufacturing process.

This is one of many reasons why it is absolutely essential for misconduct in these situations to be handled strongly. When makers of these products violate the trust they are given--usually in an effort to cut corners and maximize profits--they are responible for the harm that results. To ensure that there is accountability in your individual case, please take a moment to reach out to the meningitis outbreak lawyers and product liability attorneys at our firm who can help ensure your rights are respected every step of the way.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Meningitis Oubreak Spreads Across the Country

Latest Update on Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

September 12, 2012

Medicaid Home Care Cuts Halted by Court

by Levin & Perconti

Legal challenge for those receiving “at home” care via Medicaid are growing across the country. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides long-term care to the poor and disabled. This is distinguished from Medicare which provides general medical insurance for seniors. When prolonged nursing home visits or caregiving duties at home are needed it is Medicaid, not Medicare, that residents turn to when they cannot afford the services on their own.

Yet, it is no secret that budgets--both state and federal--are quite tight. Medicaid outlays are one of the largest single lines in those budgets, and so long-term financial plans almost always include mention of cuts to these services. Those who rely on Medicaid obviously have legitimate concerns about what this might mean in their specific case. At the end of the day, changes can be mandated both by state officials and the federal government. Each state may take a different track, and so it is important for local residents--when hearing news about proposed Medicaid changes--to understand if the proposal is coming from Illinois, the federal government, or another state altogether.

Legal Challenges
While both state and federal officials can alter program details, there are limits on what can be done. Specifically, the federal government usually provides funds to each state under the assumption that rules it creates will be followed by those states. The program rules provide flexibility to the states, but they also act as limits ensuring the goals outlined by federal officials is still carried out across the country. When a state makes a change in the programs that might violate the rules set forth by federal officials, then a lawsuit might be appropriate.

That appears to be the case in New York.

According to a New York Times story last week, a preliminary junction has been issued by a judge on threatened cutbacks to that state’s Medicaid coverage. The main issue was whether the state violated federal law when cutting back on personal care for certain community members on Medicaid. Certain residents who received two at-home care workers (on 12 hours shifts) would instead only receive one aide (who lived with the disabled resident).

The preliminary injunction officially stops the cut-back, but it does not officials decide the matter. In issuing the preliminary injunction, the court simply determined that the plaintiffs had a “substantial likelihood” of succeeding in their case--it didn’t actually decide the case.

In issuing the ruling, the judge felt that the evidence was strong against illegal termination of services. Apparently, proper notice was not provided to the residents affected and there were confusing interpretations of Medicaid rules which spurred the cuts to begin with.

The judge noted that financial pressures were likely the cause of the state agency’s decision to cut back on personal services. Yet, the judge’s ruling is a reminder that major changes cannot contravene the law. Of course, the law can be changed by relevant policymakers. But, until that occurs, state officials have to abide by the rules on the books and provide the care required and mandated.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

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May 31, 2010

Nursing Home Lawyers Discuss Study That Shows New Definitions for Malnutrition

by Levin & Perconti

A panel of nutrition experts has released new definitions for malnutrition that will be universally applicable. McKnights Long-Term Care News & Assisted Living is reporting that these new definitions will help clinicians and healthcare workers identify and treat malnutrition. Researchers had decided to develop new definitions because there was a lack of generally agreed upon terms for the numerous forms and causes of malnutrition. There are now three categories of adult nutrition: starvation-related, chronic disease-related or acute disease/injury-related. These categories can now include all the major causes of malnutrition. These are important clarifications considering a 2000 study found that between 25% and 85% of nursing home residents are considered malnourished. The new definitions were accumulated by ESPEN and ASPEN. They will be published in the journals Clinical Nutrition and JPEN. To read about the new definitions, please check out the link.

Malnutrition or dehydration can cause many problems in elderly residents. These health conditions include tooth decay, broken bones, anemia and low blood pressure. Severe cases can even lead to death. These ailments can oftentimes be easily prevented if the residents are properly fed and nourished. Many times residents who are suffering from depression will become malnourished. Some experts also believe that residents become malnourished due to a lack of adequately trained personnel. Poor staffing is often the root of most nursing home abuse problems. It is the duty of all nursing homes to ensure that not only they have a sufficient number of staff members, but that these staff members are properly trained to deal with the complexities of the elderly. If you believe that you or a loved one resides in a Chicago-area or Illinois nursing home with inadequate staffing, please confront the nursing home about this problem. If this poor level of staffing has lead to nursing home abuse, consult a nursing home lawyer.

November 19, 2009

Nursing Home Administers Drug that Causes Woman’s Skin to Peel Off

by Levin & Perconti

A woman wrongfully died at a nursing home after employees administered her a drug that caused more than half of her skin to peel off. The woman filed a nursing negligence lawsuit against 17 defendants, whom she blames for repeatedly giving the victim a drug that caused her to experience a severe allergic reaction. The lawsuit claims that the nurses should have known of the victim’s allegories, including her allergy to sulfa drugs, but failed to include her allegories on an admission and assessment form. They administered the drug to treat bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, the nursing home lawsuit claims that it was a direct and proximate result of that negligent act that caused the victim to develop multiple large open areas in the skin. Also portions of her skin were sloughed off and she developed red blistering. This caused extreme pain and suffering and she was admitted to a burn unit where she died. To read more from the nursing home lawsuit, please click the link.

September 9, 2009

Nursing Home and Drug Firms Questioned on Dispensing of Drugs

by Levin & Perconti

Several nursing homes may have provided powerful prescription drugs such as Fentanyl and OxyContin to patients without a doctor’s authorization which is a violation of federal rules. The drugs were in labeled “emergency kit boxes” intended for use when a doctor is not available or when a patient is waiting for a prescription to be filled. Federal rules on dispensing drugs were not followed, including rules on filing required paperwork. While such kits are standard in many nursing homes, concern has been rising about whether the medication in such kits is being monitored closely enough. These create a chance of medical mistakes and stolen drugs. The nursing homes are still under investigation for supposed nursing home abuse. The investigation has revealed that a patient was given Fentanyl without a written prescription because of a emergency situation. If you are worried about a nursing home’s emergency drugs, consult an Illinois lawyer. To read more about the nursing home negligence, please click the link.

August 13, 2009

Physician Testifies in Elder Abuse Lawsuit

by Levin & Perconti

A family filed an elderly negligence suit against a nursing home physician claiming that the doctor was negligent in prescribing a medication for her. The physician took the stand and testified that the family called months later asking for the exact medication in order to curb’s the woman’s anxiety. The nursing home negligence lawsuit alleges that the medication, Haldol, contributed to the victim’s immobility and bedsores while she was living at a nursing home. The plaintiff alleged the pressure ulcer required surgery and could have been prevented. The nursing home negligence lawsuit claims that the prescription decreased her motor activity. To read more about the nursing home lawsuit, please click the link.

March 27, 2009

Maggots are no Longer Cure for Festering Wounds

by Levin & Perconti

Putting flesh-eating maggots into open wounds has not been found to be helpful. The maggots do clean wounds more quickly than normal treatment, yet this does not lead to faster healing. A study shows that this “so-called” larval therapy more painful. Maggots do have a long history in medicine. Recently they have been used to prevent dangerous infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas (MRSA). The study recruited 267 patients with venuous leg ulcers and treated them either with maggots or hydrogel and found no significant difference in outcomes or cost. Maggots may seem to have advantages in some specialized areas, such as preparing patients for skin grafts, where faster wound cleaning means patients can be moved into surgery more swiftly. Larval therapy works because maggots eat only dead and rotting tissue, leaving a clean wound. These maggots do not burrow into healthy flesh, presumed to eat each other when they run out of food. This study will have an impact on the treatment of elderly patients. To read more about the study, please click the link.

March 22, 2009

Nursing home fined $80,000 for resident’s death

by Levin & Perconti

A nursing home has been fined $80,000 after investigators determined a patient died because of the staff’s nursing home neglect. The staff failed to follow the resident’s dietary needs. The 54 year-old resident was supposed to be restricted to soft foods and died when he choked on a meatball. The state regulators cited the nursing home for the nursing home neglect.

To read more about the nursing home neglect.

January 12, 2009

It is a Nursing Home's Responsibility to Prevent Most Falls

by Levin & Perconti

Elder abuse and neglect is widespread in today’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The failure to prevent falls among the elderly is one of the most common examples of negligence in nursing homes. Many of the falls that cause death or serious injury among elderly nursing home patients are, in fact, preventable. Patients should be evaluated on neurological status, debilitating diseases, drug status, mental state, sensory deficits, history of falls, and age. If they are deemed at any risk for falls, homes and facilities should take extra precaution to prevent injury. An at-risk patient should be escorted to the bathroom or frequently offered the use of a bedpan, for instance. Failure to supervise elderly at-risk patients could result in falls with serious consequences. Every elderly patient is entitled to proper and attentive care, and the prevention of falls is a responsibility of every nursing home and health care facility.

Click here for more information

December 12, 2008

Alzheimer's Disease Common in Nursing Home Residents

by Levin & Perconti

Alzheimer's Disease is common in nursing home populations. Loved ones of a nursing home resident suffering from the disease need to ensure that the resident is properly cared for. Nursing home residents may be prone to wandering and elopement if they are suffering from the disease. Nursing homes supervision of elderly residents is crucial to prevent elder resident injuries and elder resident accidents. There are several warning signs that can help a loved one to determine if someone they know is suffering from the disease. These warning signs can alert one to seek proper medical attention for a nursing home resident. The warning signs promulgated by the Alzheimer's Association are as follows:
1) Memory Loss
2) Difficulty performing familiar tasks
3) Problems with language
4) Disorientation to time and place
5) Poor or decreased judgment
6) Problems with abstract thinking
7) Misplacing things
8) Changes in mood or behavior
9) Changes in Personality and
10) Loss of initiative

To learn more about the disease check out information on the official Alzheimer's Association site.