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Negligent Use of Coumadin in Nursing Homes Largely Unresolved and Underreported

Posted on in Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

coumadin blood thinner, Chicago nursing home neglect lawyerWhen you place a family member in a nursing home or other long-term facility, you expect them to be treated with care. Unfortunately, it does not always work out this way. Mistakes, negligence, and accidents do happen. But when it happens with medications, the implications can be severe, maybe even deadly.

The “Most Dangerous Drug in America”

Coumadin, a commonly prescribed anticoagulant, was originally used as a rat and mouse killer. In the 1950s, it became a breakthrough drug for humans with clotting disorders, arrhythmias, and deep vein thrombosis. Indeed, it can be a life-saving drug when used correctly. But there are some serious dangers with Coumadin, particularly for geriatric patients.

Coumadin can be difficult to manage, even when dealing with younger, healthier patients. Give too much and the patient can have severe bruising and uncontrollable bleeding. Give too little and the patient can suffer from life-threatening blood clots. There are also adverse effects when the drug is mixed with certain foods or medications, especially antibiotics.

Blood tests must be done regularly to ensure that a healthy balance is maintained. And anytime the patient falls, has to take a new medication, or has any other major change in diet or treatment, more testing must be done to ensure the patient is receiving the right dosage. Sadly, statistics suggest that nursing homes have a bit of a problem when it comes to effectively monitoring geriatric patients taking Coumadin.

The Scope of Coumadin Problems in Nursing Homes

According to federal data, about one in six of the approximately 1.3 million nursing home patients in the United States take an anticoagulant. The majority of those are thought to be Coumadin, or its generic, Warafin. A 2007 peer review study published in the American Journal of Medicine estimated that, of those patients, an estimated 34,000 suffer from serious, life-threatening, or fatal events from Coumadin each year. And a government inspection showed that, from 2011 to 2014, at least 165 nursing home residents were hospitalized or died from Coumadin-related errors.

Yet deaths and hospitalizations related to the drug have drawn minimal attention from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that regulates nursing homes. In fact, neither they nor the American Health Care Association, the trade group for nursing homes, have done an official tally of Coumadin cases to determine the full extent of damages to nursing home patients.

The main exception to this problem applies to cases that have triggered an actual complaint. Nursing homes found to have inadequately managed a patient on Coumadin may be fined or threatened with a loss of funds. But the fines are rare and, more often than not, nursing homes are simply asked to correct the issue and put policies in place to prevent further incidents.

As one might guess, this has been largely ineffective at changing the care of nursing home patients on Coumadin. The Consultant Pharmacist journal determined that, even after 12 New York nursing homes were provided with tools to help them improve care of patients on Coumadin, few changes were actually made.

A Call for Change and a Helping Hand for Coumadin-Related Incidents

You and your family should not have to worry about the care of your loved ones. Policies, procedures, and preventions should take precedence, and nursing homes should be held accountable when they fail to follow through with standard, adequate care.

Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have handled hundreds of nursing home cases, and we are dedicated to helping your family receive the compensation you deserve. For a free consultation with our skilled attorneys, call Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. at 312-553-4900 today.

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