The family of a 64-year-old veteran who had gone to a VA medical center in South Carolina complaining of nausea and vomiting and was given the wrong medication that led to his death on February 2, 2017 has settled the VA medical malpractice wrongful death claim for $800,000, which settlement was approved by a federal judge in mid-December 2018.
The VA medical staff was supposed to administer multiple doses of filgrastim by injection but instead administered multiple doses of the similar-sounding medication pegfilgrastim by injection, which led to pulmonary toxicity followed by respiratory distress syndrome and death eleven days after the veteran arrived at the VA medical center for treatment.
Filgrastim vs. Pegfilgrastim
Chemotherapy can cause white blood cell counts to drop, which puts patients at risk of infection. Neutropenia, which is a low level of one of the types of white blood cells, is treated with Neulasta or Neupogen.
Neulasta and Neupogen are both made of a natural protein known as granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (or “G-CSF”). Pegfilgrastim (Neulasta) has a polyethylene glycol, “PEG,” unit added to it, which makes the molecule larger so that it stays in a patient’s system longer than filgrastim (Neupogen).
Neulasta is given once for each cycle of high-dose chemotherapy, and is generally administered between 14 days before and 24 hours after the administration of chemotherapy agents. Neupogen is given in several injections on a daily basis until neutrophil counts come back to normal levels. Patients may need just three or four shots of Neupogen, or as many as 10, depending on how well their system responds to the drug.
Both Neulasta and Neupogen compare favorably with regard to effectiveness in boosting neutrophil production, tolerability by patients, and safety of use. The side effects of Neulasta and Neupogen are nearly the same: bone pain is the most common side effect of both drugs, experienced by 31% to 26% of people on Neulasta and 24% of people on Neupogen. Patients who are bothered by bone pain sometimes choose Neupogen over Neulasta as a result, although it is less convenient to use.
It seems to us that it is exceedingly rare that either the brand name or the generic name of drugs gives any indication of the medical conditions or symptoms for which they are prescribed (e.g., just look at the increasing number of television and print advertisements that extol new medications, the names of which cannot be pronounced by the average person and the conditions for which they may be prescribed are not clearly stated), which results in patients rarely, if ever, knowing if the drugs they are prescribed or received are the right medications for them.
Additionally, similar sounding drug names make it unnecessarily difficult and potentially unsafe for health care professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, to insure that the medications prescribed, filled, and administered were safe, correct, and effective.
Medication errors can result in permanent injuries or even death. If you may have received the wrong medication and suffered as a result of the medication mistake, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. The advice received from a medical malpractice attorney may help you determine if you may bring a claim for your suffering.
Visit our website by clicking here or call us toll free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may investigate your drug claim on your behalf and represent you with your drug claim, if appropriate.
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