FATAL Rx: Doctor Held Liable for Handwriting ‘Mix-up’
A Texas cardiologist "could be the first doctor held liable for a fatal medication mix-up" caused by the enduring problem of bad handwriting in the medical profession, USA Today reports. A jury found Dr. Ramachandra Kolluru responsible for the death of Ramon Vasquez, who died from an apparent heart attack after taking the wrong medication at eight times the recommended dosage. In June 1995, Kolluru gave Vasquez a prescription for Isordil, a drug intended for heart pain caused by valve problems. The pharmacist misread Kolluru's handwriting and instead gave Vasquez a drug called Plendil, meant for high blood pressure. Plendil is "typically taken at no more than 10 milligrams a day," but due to the mix-up Vasguez took 80 milligrams a day. The 42-year-old heart patient died two weeks later. Kolluru has been ordered to pay Vasquez' family $225,000 in punitive damages. The pharmacy settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. The incident points to a alarming trend in the pharmaceutical industry as it is "more and more difficult for companies to come up with a name that doesn't look or sound like a drug that's already out there," said Pharmacist Michael Cohen of the Institute for Safe Medical Practices. Vasquez's lawyer argued that the family "had no complaint about [the doctor's] care," however, they favored litigation in hopes to "prompt doctors and pharmacists to be more careful." Max Wright, a defense lawyer, believed that the jury was most likely sending "a message to the medical community that in the computerized information age, there is no reason for doctors to create the potential for error" (Hall, USA Today, 10/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.