Every family that places their loved one in a nursing home expects that they will receive appropriate care and supervision throughout the day. In many cases, these elderly residents require medications several times a day.
A nursing home has the duty and responsibility to ensure that its residents receive the proper medication at the proper times. The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General has very strict standards regarding how nursing homes are to administer prescriptions to residents.
Unfortunately, due to many reasons, including overworked and understaffed nursing homes, many elderly residents receive expired prescriptions, leading to harmful injuries or even death.
Dangers of Expired Prescriptions
Prescriptions have an expiry date on them for an important reason. There are many reasons why an expired prescription could cause serious injury or even death. The expiry date, also known as the “use by date” or “use before date,” designates a specific time in which a particular medication is safe and effective to use. If a resident of a nursing home takes a prescription medication after this expiration, then several severe medical complications could occur.
In some cases, expired medicine is less effective due to its diminished potency over time. While this may not seem to be a significant danger at first, a patient that relies on medication to control any health problem can find themselves suffering from serious injuries if the medication is not provided at full potency.
In other cases, the medication may actually have no efficacy whatsoever, leaving the resident with no medication to control their medical health issue, which may be a life-threatening one.
Some medications actually become toxic after their expiry date. If medication becomes poisonous, it is likely due to the molecular structure or stability of that particular prescription. For example, insulin must remain refrigerated. If insulin remains out of the refrigerator for even two months, and the administration of the expired prescription goes to a nursing home patient, this can result in diabetic ketoacidosis causing a resident to slip into a coma, or even die.
Types of Expired Prescriptions That Cause Harm
Some of the medications that become toxic or less effective following their expiration date include the following, according to Harvard Health Publishing:
- Liquid antibiotics
Nursing Home Prescription Waste
According to research published in the medical journal, Pharmacy, many nursing homes have significant amounts of leftover and unused medications. In some cases, nursing home residents no longer need a specific prescription or need a higher (or lower) dose of the same medication previously prescribed to them.
In other cases, the nursing home resident no longer needs that specific medication at all. In order to attempt to avoid medication wastage, some nursing homes will continue to use those prescriptions for other residents that then receive the same prescription at a later time.
It is never appropriate or ethical to administer a prescription intended for one resident to a different resident at any time. Additionally, when these prescriptions expire over time, they lose their efficacy or can even become toxic, leading to serious injuries or fatalities. While nursing home medication waste is a concern that needs attention in the medical community, the solution is not the administration of expired prescriptions to other nursing home residents.
What To Do If You Discover Your Elderly Loved One Received Expired Prescriptions
If you discover that your loved one received expired prescriptions as a resident in a nursing home, you should seek immediate medical attention for them.
Additionally, you should file an official complaint with the nursing home management. Depending on the severity of the incident, you may also want to consider calling Adult Protective Services or law enforcement. If you fear for the safety of your elderly loved one, and do not feel you can trust them to remain safe while in the nursing home, you should find alternative living arrangements for them to remove them from any type of danger.
Consider a Nursing Home Neglect Attorney
If your elderly loved one suffered injuries due to the administration of an expired prescription as a resident in a nursing home, you have the legal right to pursue justice and possibly receive compensation for any injuries or damages. Consider calling Pintas & Mullins Law Firm to learn how a nursing home neglect attorney may be able to help you understand your legal right and pursue justice on behalf of your loved one. Contact us at (800) 842-6336 today.