A male pharmacist is examining a drug from a pharmacy inventory.

How Policies Enacted During COVID-19 Might Reduce Future Drug Spending

By Beatrice Brown

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted several states to take steps to temporarily authorize therapeutic substitution of drugs experiencing sudden shortages, whether due to spikes in demand or supply chain disruptions.

Although these instances of replacing patients’ typical prescription drugs with different drugs intended to have the same therapeutic effects have been prompted by necessity, therapeutic substitution more generally might reduce drug spending in the United States.

In a recent piece in the BMJ, Jonathan Darrow, Jessica Chong, and Aaron Kesselheim explore using state laws to expand the authority of pharmacists to substitute clinically similar alternatives in order to help cut spending. Actions taken by states to temporarily allow therapeutic substitution can help them gain experience with this strategy and potentially lead to broader and more permanent drug substitution policies that could help decrease drug spending.

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Photograph of a gavel in front of a British flag

A New Litigation Crisis on the Horizon: Negligent Delays for Non-COVID-19 Patients

By John Tingle

As the dust begins to settle around the COVID-19 pandemic, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge of possible litigation trends against the United Kingdom’s NHS (National Health Service) for actions taken during the crisis.

Many NHS services have been reduced or suspended during the crisis. Negligent delays in treatment are a common cause of action in clinical negligence and medical malpractice cases. Legal claims could be made by patients who argue that they have suffered, and continue to suffer, because of lack of access to care and treatment due to COVID-19 NHS emergency restrictions. These claims raise tort, public law and human rights concerns, and some law firms have already been approached by patients asking for advice in this area.

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Pile of colorful pills in blister packs

Could Vioxx Make a Comeback? Recalled Drug Receives Orphan Designation

By Blake N. Shultz and Gregory Curfman

Despite a troubling history, rofecoxib (Vioxx) may be making a comeback.

The voluntary withdrawal of rofecoxib (Vioxx) from the market in September 2004 marked the end of a controversial era for a once highly profitable and widely used drug. It also marked the beginning of years of high-profile product-liability litigation that would cost Merck billions.

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WHO flag.

WHO and Global Patient Safety: A View from Across the Pond

By John Tingle

After months of heavy criticism of the World Health Organization, President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the United States would end its relationship with the WHO.

As the organization shoulders sustained disparagement from President Trump, it is worth highlighting the critical work the WHO has done over the years. This post will focus on the role the WHO has played in promoting patient safety around the world and in the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) through useful materials and key initiatives.

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mask, gloves, goggles.

Are Clinicians Without PPE Morally Obligated to Care for COVID-19 Patients?

By Beatrice Brown

There is currently a dire shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at hospitals across the United States, especially in areas that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19.

PPE is essential to protecting those on the front lines of the pandemic – the President of the American Medical Association (AMA) has said that without adequate PPE, we may face a shortage of clinicians to treat COVID-19 patients, in addition to other shortages of critical resources.

Without adequate PPE, are clinicians morally obligated to provide care to patients who are either presumed positive for COVID-19 or who definitely have the virus?

Here, I argue that to treat patients without adequate PPE is supererogatory but not obligatory. In other words, this is a noble and praiseworthy act, but clinicians should not be obligated to perform these heroic acts, nor should we blame them, morally, for their decision to refuse to provide care.

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TeleSitters are entering hospital rooms. How will they change patient care?

By Adriana Krasniansky

In many medical circumstances, clinicians and caregivers may choose not to leave a patient alone. For example, a patient may present a fall risk, experience confusion and agitation, or be at risk of self-harm.  Traditionally, in such situations, a hospital assigns the patient a sitter, or a caregiver who provides patients patient supervision and companionship. 

The need for sitters in hospital settings is rising, as patient loads increase and fewer patients have family members who are able to stay with them for long periods of time. Sitters are also a considerable investment for hospitals; one community hospital reported employing 14 sitters a day, totaling $425,000 in costs annually. Many healthcare networks are exploring the possibility of TeleSitters, or virtual monitoring systems to support patient care. In this article, we review the national adoption of TeleSitters and point out benefits and considerations to their implementation.  Read More

An index finger rests on one yellow star while four other stars are shaded to the right, indicating a one star review.

Improving the Mindset on NHS Complaint Handling

By John Tingle

History has not served the NHS (National Health Service) complaints system well

History has not served the NHS complaints system well. There have been many reports about NHS complaints going back well over two and a half decades, saying the same or similar things about the system. Many have argued and continue to argue that the NHS complaints system needs to be much more responsive, simpler in operation and less defensive. It is fair comment to argue today that the NHS complaints system is still plagued with endemic and systemic problems. The NHS has never been able to gets its health care complaints system right.

Two contemporary reports, one published in 2018 and the other in 2020, give support to the view that the NHS needs to do much more to improve how patient complaints are handled. Read More

A mother holds her baby close to her chest and gazes at their face

Maternity Scandal Hits the NHS

By John Tingle

Unfortunately, it’s never too long before a major NHS patient safety crisis hits the newspaper headlines in the United Kingdom. The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SATH) maternity scandal has just become a major breaking U.K. patient safety news story.

Shaun Lintern reports in The Independent:

Hundreds of families whose babies died or were seriously injured at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust do not even know their cases have been identified for investigation in the biggest maternity scandal to ever hit the NHS… Dozens of babies and three mothers died in the trust’s maternity wards, where a ‘toxic culture’ stretched back to 1979, according to an interim report leaked to The Independent this week.

Patient Safety Scandals

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