Top 10 Drugs Involved in Medication Errors: Albuterol

#4 Albuterol

Basic Characteristics

Albuterol is a drug used to treat the symptoms of asthma, an inflammatory lung disease that causes difficulty in breathing. Asthma is a chronic condition in which the airways react when stimulated by an allergen or other triggers in the environment. Symptoms of an asthma attack include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain or tightness, rapid heart rate and sweating.

Albuterol is classified as a quick relief or rescue medication. As a bronchodilator, it opens the airways and rapidly relieves moderate to severe asthma attacks. Albuterol is generally administered through an inhaler and is effective for 3 to 6 hours.

Short vs. Long-term Asthma Treatment

Bronchodilators like Albuterol relieve the symptoms of asthma attacks but do not treat the underlying inflammation. Thus, they do not help to control the disease itself. Some health professionals recommend long-term control therapy by use of corticosteroids. These are man-made drugs that resemble a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. Corticosteroids work by reducing inflammation and the activity of the immune system.

Albuterol Misuse

When taken over time, short-acting asthma drugs like Albuterol may become less effective. Patients may develop a tolerance for them and overuse them. One of Albuterol’s possible side-effects is fast or irregular heartbeat, making overuse especially risky for people with heart conditions.

Legal Action Involving Albuterol

In 1995 a class action lawsuit against Copley Pharmaceutical, the manufacturer of Albuterol, resulted in a $150 million settlement for the plaintiffs. Due to a bacterial contaminant found in Albuterol solution, numerous users suffered bronchial infections, pneumonia, respiratory distress and, in some cases, death. In 2011 a number of asthma patients died due to problems with inhalers containing Albuterol. The inhalers, manufactured by Schering-Plough, had not been properly filled with Albuterol. Patients using the inhalers were receiving little or no relief because the inhalers contained insufficient amounts of Albuterol, or none at all. Pressure by a public consumer group resulted in an FDA investigation and the recall of millions of inhalers by the manufacturer.

Medication Error and Albuterol

Asthma patients who develop a tolerance for Albuterol may believe that larger and more frequent doses will bring them more relief. In order to avoid overuse of Albuterol, patients should be monitored and assessed for long-term drug therapy. Another serious risk of overdoes occurs when Albuterol prescriptions are filled in the wrong dosage. In one case, a patient received a 3 day dosage in an inhaler meant to contain a daily dose. Recently, the FDA issued a warning concerning mislabeled dose vials of Albuterol. Vials containing 2.5 mg/3 mL were mislabeled as 0.5 mg/3 mL and were 5 times more powerful than the dosage indicated on the label. Overdose can cause Albuterol toxicity and may result in tremors, dizziness, anxiety, headache, angina, high blood pressure, seizures, low potassium, heart rates of up to 200 beats per minute, and death.

Albuterol packaged in plastic ampules has also been problematic. Plastic packaging is used because it reduces contaminants. In addition, the labels are embossed rather than printed because dyes used in ink can be inhaled along with the medication. Plastic ampules are available in multiple dose solutions and the embossed labels can be small and difficult to read. Furthermore, due to similarity in appearance, plastic ampules of Albuterol can be mixed up with other look-alike products stored in cabinets, refrigerators, or even the health provider’s coat pocket. One nurse in a long-term care facility mistakenly picked up an ampule of Albuterol when she was about to administer eye drops to a patient. Fortunately, she realized her error in time. The package of Albuterol had been placed in the resident’s medication drawer by mistake.

Albuterol is a valuable drug that can cause grave consequences if improperly dispensed and overused. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a pharmacist’s error concerning Albuterol, The Orlow firm can offer a thorough and professional evaluation of your case.

Contact The Orlow Firm Today

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to negligence in the dispensing of Albuterol, contact New York prescription error attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a caring and knowledgeable legal consultation.

Call (800) 504-9590 or contact us online.