A Dallas pharmacy company erroneously made a drug 10 times more potent than intended, killing three people who received it at an Oregon clinic, according to the state medical examiner’s report. ApotheCure Inc., a drug compounding pharmacy company, said an employee committed a weighing error in making the drug colchicine, according to an Associated Press news report posted in The Dallas Morning News Website. The drug was sent only to the Center for Integrative Medicine in Portland, where three people received injections of the defective batch to treat back pain, company officials said.
All three recipients of the defective drug — two from Portland and one from Yakima, Wash. — died between the end of March and beginning of April from the toxic levels of the drug, officials said. The Food and Drug Administration said it is investigating the deaths, but the agency’s officials believe that the problem has been contained, according to the article.
The article reported that Gary Osborn, a pharmacist and certified clinical nutritionist for ApotheCure Inc., said the problem could have been contained even earlier had the clinic contacted ApotheCure Inc. after the first death occurred. Osborn told the Associated Press that the clinic did not contact then until nearly two weeks after the first death. He also said the second death occurred before the company was able to completely recall the bad batch and send a new lot.
Osborn said this is the first such incident in his company, which he says is an industry leader.
“But you know what people say, stuff happens,” he said to the reporter.
The Portland clinic has since closed. Experts say that the drug colchicine works by stopping cell division thereby reducing inflammation in conditions such as gout. But then, in excess doses, the drug arrests cell division altogether, leading to organ failure and death.
This is a tragic, but interesting case. Usually, we see pharmaceutical companies such as Merck being held responsible for adverse effects caused by their defective drugs. In this case, the lab made a significant miscalculation that cost three lives. Maybe Mr. Osborn didn’t mean to say what he said, but his comment in response to the laboratory’s grave mistake is disturbing. Stuff happens? To refer to a fatal error as “stuff” seems terribly insensitive and flippant to me. Sure, we all know stuff happens and human errors occur everywhere – be it in an auto manufacturing facility or a laboratory. But why did this company not report the first death until after two weeks? That is a significant delay.
Pharmacological errors are not uncommon. A couple times a year we will see serious errors on the part of a pharmacist in dispensing drugs that lead to serious consequences. Either they will have the wrong strength or they mix up prescriptions between patients. One of the recent ones caused a death of a grandparent when the pharmacist mixed up the prescriptions.
Call me if you have questions regarding a pharmacological error. If you or a loved one has been injured, call me to discuss your rights and options. John Bisnar, 800-259-6373.