DANGEROUS PRODUCTS ON THE MARKET CAUSE PERSONAL INJURIES

Countless numbers of consumers are injured each year by defective and dangerous products on the market. If you have suffered an injury from a defective product you may have a personal injury claim.

There are perhaps three areas of defective products they can be design defects, manufacturer defects, and defects in instructions or warnings. Below are examples. Example 1 are actual cases my office has handled and won. Example 2 is illustrative.

Defects in Design – Example 1: A trailer manufacturer specifies a wheel that cannot withstand exposure to salt water and disintegrates the wheel fails causing severe personal injuries. Example2: A bicycle manufacturer’s design specifies a handle bar that comes apart when the rider uses the bike in normal / intended use. i.e. mountain bikes.

Defects in Manufacturing – Example1: An automobile manufacturer does not have proper installed /designed rear seatbelts and they cause severe abdominal injuries in a collision to the passenger. Example 2: An automobile manufacture uses an ignition switch that tends to fail causing the vehicle to come to a stop, creating the possibility of a serious accident and injuries or death.

Defects in Warnings – Example 1: A manufacturer fails to provide an adequate written warning of the flammability of its product and fails to warn to use it an area free of open flames or exposed electrical circuits. Example2: The manufacturer of a space heater fails to provide an adequate written warning that the space heater is prone to overheating and causing a fire hazard if left on for more than 12 hours.

Designers and manufacturers who design, build and distribute defective products can be held responsible for personal injuries or damages that their defective products caused. The types of products are broad they can range from everyday consumer products to medical devices.
I am sure you have all of heard of products liability lawsuits involving the Ford Pinto, Firestone Tires, defective hip implants and just about another product you can imagine.
Of course, these lawsuits can damage a company’s reputation, stock value and their bottom line. One infamous case from the 1970s involved botulism in canned soup. Several people died or were badly injured. The company Bon Vivant ultimately went out of business. Some companies will go to great lengths to hide evidence that its products are defective and dangerous.

Let’s look at some notable cases. General Motors (GM) recently recalled millions of its cars to fix a faulty ignition switch that caused accidents and injuries. The evidence shows that GM had known about the problem for years but had hidden it to avoid having a recall. About a ten years ago Firestone Tire Company hid knowledge that the tires it put on certain vehicles were dangerous. Although the GM and Firestone cases may be particularly disturbing, they are far from the only companies that have hidden evidence of dangerous products.

There are examples involving all different kinds of products. Medical devices for instance, remember the Dalkon Shield, a contraceptive device sold in the 1970s. Despite receiving reports that the device caused infections, stillbirths, and even death, A.H. Robbins (the manufacturer) refused to stop its sale. When the FDA stopped its sale in the United States, the company continued to sell it overseas for another 10 years. Thousands of women lost their children, and some women died.

More recently, Guidant, a maker of implant defibrillators and other medical devices. They hid the fact that one of its implanted defibrillators could short-circuit and fail to operate. Despite the potentially grave consequences, Guidant chose to sell its existing stock of devices, and over the course of three years, it sold 37,000 defibrillators without warning doctors or their patients of the defect.  Patients died and others were deprived of the opportunity to select a different implant.

The profits made from the sale of drugs also encourage companies to bury evidence of problems. Johnson & Johnson continued for years to market Propulsid to treat heartburn, all the time knowing it caused serious heart problems, especially in children. Bayer marketed Trasylol, a drug used to control bleeding, knowing it could cause kidney failure. GlaxoSmithKlein’s Avandia (a diabetes drug that caused heart problems), Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa (a psychotropic drug that caused diabetes), and the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that many makers sold to treat depression but that caused an increased risk of suicide are still other examples.

Food is another area in which some corporations place profits ahead of safety. Nine people died and hundreds were sickened by salmonella-contaminated peanut butter, despite the fact that the Peanut Corporation of America had known of the problem for at least three years, going so far as to hire a different testing lab to try to improve the results of tests for contamination.  In 2002, Pilgrim’s Pride continued to distribute chicken processed at a plant that it knew was contaminated with Listeria, killing eight and causing others to become sickened or to miscarry. Just a few years before that, people across the upper Midwest were killed or sickened by beef contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The plant that processed the meat would be closed due to contamination, would immediately reopen, and then would close again, the company never solving the underlying problem.

Toys for children are not immune to these dangers. There are companies that sell products aimed at children with knowledge of potential or actual dangers. Magnetix toys, sold building blocks containing small magnets. The toys were popular. However, the company began to receive reports that small children would / could swallow the magnets, and that the magnets would then attach to each other in the child’s intestines and cause infections and bowel obstructions. Even when the United States government specifically asked, the company denied any knowledge of these injuries, and the product continued to be sold.

The fact of the matter is that for many companies, profits come before people, and the companies are willing to knowingly sell products that carry a danger of unnecessary death for those who use them.

Richard M. Katz is a Pasadena personal injury lawyer. He has more than 35 years of experience. We specialize in accident cases, medical malpractice and Kaiser Permanente malpractice claims.

If you or someone you love has been injured because of dangerous or defective product or suffered another type of personal injury, please give me, Richard M. Katz, a call. Our office is ready to help you. Please call 626-796-6333.

Medication Errors: Don’t Let Them Happen to You

Medication errors like happen frequently. According to the well respected 2006 report “Preventing Medication Errors” from the Institute of Medicine, medication errors injure 1.5 million Americans each year and cost $3.5 billion in lost productivity, wages, and additional medical expenses.

We have all seen that almost yearly there is an announcement of some new wonder drug to treat a condition or disease. We have all seen the drug commercial and the all important disclaimer. No drug or medication is without some adverse risk or reaction. The increase in the number of drugs available and in the number of drugs the average person takes has led to an explosion in the number of errors made in prescriptions.

These errors can take all kinds of forms and can occur in many different ways. Sometimes a drug other than the one prescribed is provided, or the correct drug is provided in the wrong dosage. Sometimes a drug is prescribed that interacts negatively with another drug the person is taking and the patient is not warned of the danger. Sometimes the mistake is made by the doctor prescribing the drug, sometimes by the pharmacist filling the prescription, sometimes by the person administering the prescribed drug. Mistakes can occur in hospitals, nursing homes, and the corner drugstore. Regardless of the many different ways that prescription problems can occur, they all share one thing: They can be serious and potentially deadly.

In 2008 it was estimated by researchers that preventable adverse drug events kill 7,000 Americans annually. The researchers also concluded that medication errors that result in harm are the number-one cause of inpatient fatalities. Experts believe at least one medication error occurs per hospital patient every day. However, error rates vary widely among facilities. It has been found that medication errors pose the greatest risks and consequences in critical care settings, the reason for this is that usually patients in such settings are quite ill and do not have the resilience to respond adequately to an adverse event. Further, critical care patients often receive twice as many medications as patients on general floors. It is estimated that some 20% of critical care medication errors are potentially life-threatening, and half of these medical errors necessitate
additional life-sustaining treatments.

A undercover investigation televised by ABC News in 2007 reported on errors committed at pharmacies in the United States. The report, Pharmacy Errors: Unreported Epidemic?, drew attention to a the dangers associated with the proliferation of dispensing errors. The ABC News report showed the devastating consequences that are possible when medication errors are made. The ABC News Reported implied that overworked healthcare providers (pharmacists) are prone to making medical mistakes.

In a poll conducted by the National Patient Safety Foundation, 42% of respondents had been affected by a medical error, either personally or through a friend or relative, and 32% indicated that the error had a permanent negative effect on the patient’s health. See Medical Errors: The Scope of the Problem. Fact sheet. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2000. Publication No. AHRQ 00-P037. www.ahrq.gov/qual/errback.htm.

According to The Quality of Health Care in America Project, established by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine (IOM), errors committed within the health care system have significant impact on patient safety and health care costs.

Some experts in the health industry consider the primary reason for the rise in medication errors to be financial—the doctors who write the prescriptions, the pharmacists who fill them, and the nurses who often administer them are pressured to serve more patients in less time, increasing profits, but also increasing the risk of an error. Others experts feel that the alarming rise in the marketing of drugs directly to patients is partially responsible. The advertisements are directed to a diverse audience, i.e. patients. It has been found that patients that see or read these advertisements are more likely to go to their doctors and demand a prescription for some drug they read about in a magazine ad or saw on television. Such patient driven requests leads to more prescriptions being written and greater chances for error.

A recent study concluded that out of 3 billion prescriptions filled each year, 51.5 million of them contain some kind of error. Although reliable statistics are hard to come by, these errors lead to thousands of unnecessary hospitalizations and hundreds of unnecessary deaths

Many factors can lead to medication errors. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has identified 10 key elements with the greatest influence on medication use, noting that weaknesses in these can lead to medication errors. They are patient information, drug information, adequate communication, drug packaging, labeling, and nomenclature, medication storage, stock, standardization, and distribution, drug device acquisition, use, and monitoring, environmental factors, staff education and competency, patient education, quality processes and risk management.

Solutions to this medication error problem have been suggested. The first is also the easiest, healthcare providers should slow down and make sure the prescription is correct for the patient. Another is to install more safeguards, such as flagging a patient’s file if they are allergic to a particular medication. Another is for pharmacists to check that the prescription they are filling is appropriate some prescriptions are virtually illegible and the pharmacist is guessing. Another solution is to make sure that different drugs or different dosages don’t look similar, reducing the chance that the wrong medication will be given to or used by a patient.

Cases involving prescription errors and medication errors can involve claims of negligence, medical malpractice, and products liability, these are complex areas of the law. In my practice I have handled claims involving prescription errors and medication errors of all types. Some leading to death and serious injury. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed possibly because of a prescription error and/or medication errors please contact give me a call. Contact Richard M. Katz, Esq. at 626-796-6333 so that my office can help protect your legal rights. Visit us at our website at https://www.lawyer-personal-injury-law.com

Big Pharma “Off-Label use” of Drugs

When we get sick we are often prescribed medications to treat our ills. Most prescribed drugs are safe, effective and expensive. Unfortunately Big Pharma ( Big Pharma is the nickname given to the pharmaceutical industry) typically push new and untried uses for their products often referred to as “off label use.” (Off-label use is the use of pharmaceutical drugs for an unapproved indication or in an unapproved age group, unapproved dosage, or unapproved form of administration). The practice is entirely legal and very common.

When medications are approved by the FDA, they are approved for a particular purpose and for particular users. The approval process relies on testing that shows that the drug is safe and effective for the approved purpose. However, this restricted approval doesn’t stop Big Pharma  from making an attempt to extend the marketplace for a drug by claiming that it can be used to treat alternative issues.

Does anyone remember Fen-Phen for weight loss?  The off label use /combination proved to me very damaging to patients taking the drugs for weight loss.

Another example, is one drug company promoted Depakote, an anti seizure drug, off label to treat those with dementia praecox and Alzheimer’s. The problem is that the drug had not been shown to be effective for either use, and it often caused serious side effects.

Another drug company touted Risperdal, a tranquillizer, as a drug that would be safe and effective as a way to chemically restrain individuals in nursing homes, despite the facts that such a usage was not approved by the FDA and was never found to be safe and effective. The drug increased the risk of death in patients with dementia. Even botulinum toxin A has been marketed to treat maladies such as headaches, pain, and brain disorders but has not bee approved to treat these conditions.

Unfortunately, patients are not in a position to evaluate medications on their own. And patients rely and believe doctors will safeguard them from improper use of drugs.  The reality is that doctors do not research medications on their own and often times will rely on Big Pharma’s  promoting reps, whose job it is to sell the company’s drugs. The explosion of medicines offered places doctors in a position that they cannot possibly keep up with the proliferation of drugs.

As a result, doctors typically and perhaps inadvertently prescribe medications for off-label use based upon a reps touting.  So why does Big Pharma promote off-label use? the answer is simple: cash. Drugs are high-ticket items and translate into profits. Off-label use will increase the use of a particular drug, the motivation is simple.

Keep in mind though that Off-label prescribing isn’t necessarily bad. It can be beneficial, especially when patients have exhausted all other approved options, as may be the case with rare diseases or cancer.

The next time your physician gives a you prescription, you should know that it is possible that the drug may not be approved for your specific condition or age group. In fact it is estimated that about 20%  one in five prescriptions written in the United States are for off-label uses.

Drugs do save lives and can improve ones health. Just be aware that all medications carry risks. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions, he or she wants to help you but you also must be an active participant in your own care. I truly believe that good food, exercise and sleep goes along way to keeping us healthy.

If you believe you have got been injured by a medication “off-label” or otherwise you should seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney or medical malpractice attorney.

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