Posted by John Ager on 12 October 2012.
The recent meningitis outbreak linked to a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts has been cause for a great deal of concern among patients nationwide. Compounding pharmacies generally service unique clients who have special medication needs which can’t be filled by an ordinary pharmacy or mass produced drugs. The pharmacy in Massachusetts, however, was mass producing and distributing steroid medication across the country, calling into question whether such pharmacies are adequately regulated.
Medication errors are hardly limited to these specialized pharmacies. Between 1990 and 2005, the FDA learned about 240 serious illnesses associated with compounded drugs. The recent tainted steroids have killed 14 and sickened 170. Compare that to the approximately 1.5 million people injured and 10,000 killed by medication errors annually in the U.S. and it’s just a drop in the bucket. Similar to an analogy my partner made in his last post, that’s 10 jumbo jets full of people a day. Treating the 400,000 drug related injuries which occur in each year hospitals alone is estimated to cost $3.5 billion. Yet little is being done to fix the problem. Why? The deaths of 4,000 people changed the airline industry in significant ways forever, yet no one really cares about medication errors until they or a loved one become a victim.
I suspect that the meningitis outbreak will blow over soon enough and business will go on as usual. If that many dead and injured is not enough to change a system some claim fraught with greedy lawyers who for decades have been highlighting the issue and trying to make things better for patients, what possibly could?