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Pharmacy Mistake could Cause Serious Birth Defects

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Serious Consequences when Pharmacist Administers Wrong Drug

When it comes to medication errors, some injuries can never receive adequate compensation. One such case is that of Colorado resident Mareena Silva, a young pregnant woman who was accidentally given the wrong drug. Ms. Silva was six weeks pregnant with her first child. The pharmacist gave her the toxic drug Methotrexate[1] instead of the antibiotic prescribed for her.

Dangerous Potential Consequences from Methotrexate

Methotrexate treats cancer and severe inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors will also offer the drug at much higher doses in ectopic pregnancies. The drug can save a woman’s life by ending a pregnancy that would otherwise lead to serious hemorrhaging.  At lower doses, the drug can cause severe birth defects.

How Methotrexate Works

The toxic drug is effective in killing rapidly dividing cells like those present in cancerous growth. Unfortunately, a growing fetus also has rapidly dividing cells, and the drug attacks those as well. At six weeks, Ms. Silva’s baby was in the most vulnerable stage of life to be exposed to the drug. A six-week-old fetus is developing the heart, brain, limbs and cranial facial features, all of which may suffer birth defects as a result.

Emergency Treatment

When Ms. Silva realized she had taken the wrong drug, she immediately called her doctor who told her to try to vomit. At the emergency room, doctors gave her charcoal to absorb the drug in her stomach. It is not clear if doctors gave her the rescue agent Leucovorin[2], which works to minimize the risks of damage to healthy cells from Methotrexate. If not, Ms. Silva may have two sources of harm to her infant.

After the incident, doctors predicted a fifty percent chance that Ms. Silva’s baby would be born with severe birth defects. She will not know if the drug harmed her baby for many weeks.

Apology Inadequate

Although the Safeway pharmacy that administered the wrong drug to Ms. Silva has apologized, Ms. Silva says that “sorry” is not good enough. The grave anxiety caused by the medication error could also cause harmful effects in her pregnancy. She has a long wait ahead of her.

Even if the infant survives the exposure to Methotrexate unharmed, the emotional stress caused to the mother will likely cause problems for the infant.  Research by Dr. Calvin Hobel proves that maternal stress can contribute to preterm birth, poor fetal growth and heightened risk of other diseases when the child reaches adulthood.[3]

Lawsuit Likely

Ms. Silva has already hired a lawyer to represent her in a case against the pharmacy. It is not clear if she will file suit against the hospital as well, if doctors failed to administer the correct treatment in the emergency room.

Contact Us

If you or someone you love suffered harm because a pharmacy or doctor gave the wrong drug, contact our office. Our experienced attorneys will review your case and help you decide if filing a lawsuit is the right thing to do.


[1] http://abclocal.go.com/wtvg/story?section=news/health&id=7956392

[2] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682336.html

[3] http://research.csmc.edu/acad/gradprogram/mentors/profile/116

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