What is a ‘black box’ warning?

Every drug — whether it’s something as simple as an aspirin for a headache or something as complicated as one of the new biologic medications for certain chronic conditions — comes with its own risks.

Some of those risks, however, are certainly greater than others. Drugs that carry the greatest risks are given a “black box” warning.

Black box warnings are the strictest label that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can impose on a prescription drug. Physically, it looks very much like it sounds: a black box surrounds the list of severe or deadly adverse reactions that patients can experience while taking the drug. Black box warnings can be imposed at any point after a drug hits the market — which means that patients may already be taking the drug when a serious adverse reaction is discovered.

Black box warnings can be used to alert patients that the drug has possibly deadly interactions with another drug and warn them about dangerous dosages. However, most commonly, it’s there to warn users that the drug can cause life-threatening complications.

For example, some black box warnings include:

  • Anti-seizure medications like Lamictal and Topamax, which are also used to control chronic daily migraines, can cause a life-threatening skin reaction known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), particularly among children.
  • A drug called Linzess, designed to treat constipation in adults, can be fatal if given to children under six years of age.
  • Tygacil, a type of antibiotic in the tetracycline class, increases the risk of death to the patient and is, therefore, considered a “last resort” antibiotic that is to be used only when other options have failed.
  • It’s important to understand that just because a drug has a black box warning doesn’t mean that every patient will develop those complications. However, patients and caregivers have a right to know the risk they are taking when they take a certain drug.

When black box warnings are not communicated to patients by their doctors or pharmacists — patients can end up taking a drug without knowing the potential danger. In other cases, drug companies have hidden the dangers of a drug for longer than they should have because they don’t want doctors to stop prescribing it. In both those cases, injured patients or their families may have a right to recover for their damages.

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How do you know if a pain pump is operating correctly?

Pain pumps are usually on recommended for patients who are suffering from intractable pain that hasn’t responded to other forms of control.

Pain pumps, or intrathecal implants, can be used for chronic conditions, including those that are terminal. Some of the conditions that pain pumps are used to treat include pain caused by:

  • Cancer
  • Tumor pain
  • Nerve pain that causes a chronic burning sensation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Multiple sclerosis

Ideally, pain pumps deliver small doses of morphine or another narcotic at regular intervals to keep pain at bay.

Unfortunately, pain pumps don’t always function the way that they’re designed. They sometimes deliver too much medication, sometimes too little — or even none at all!

If you or someone you love has a pain pump, there are some important things you should watch for.

Signs of an overdosed:

If someone is receiving too much of a narcotic, he or she may experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Excitability or a sense of anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Unconsciousness

In some cases, the pain pump may be doing its job correctly, but other medications — including sleep aids — can cause deadly interactions. In other cases, the pump may be malfunctioning and putting too much of the narcotic into the patient’s system all at once.

Anyone observing a patient with a pain pump who exhibits these symptoms should call 911 for assistance immediately.

Signs of an underdose:

The symptoms of an underdose can come on slowly. Far more than just a return of a patient’s pain, the sudden withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Muscle or nerve twitches
  • Itching
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Low blood pressure
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seating
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps

It’s important to understand that an underdose can be as dangerous as an overdose — especially if the patient’s pump is blocked or failing. A patient who has been on a pain pump for any length of time will have a biological dependency on the narcotics. It’s dangerous to reduce them abruptly.

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that a pain pump isn’t working properly.

A faulty or defective pain pump can be lethal. Be particularly cautious when a pump is new, refilled, adjusted, replaced or repaired. If you or someone you love suffers an injury due to a defective pain pump, it’s wise to discuss your legal options with an attorney.

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The early symptoms of asbestosis

Asbestos was commonly used in numerous industries, particularly manufacturing and construction, for decades. Many victims of asbestos exposure don’t even realize that they were exposed — until they get sick with an asbestos-related condition.

One of those conditions is asbestosis, or pulmonary fibrosis. Slow-to-develop, asbestosis may not begin to show for decades after someone was last exposed to asbestos.

What causes asbestosis?

Asbestosis, like other diseases of its nature, is caused by inhaling tiny asbestos fibers. In this case, the fibers actually embed themselves in a victim’s lungs. Scar tissue then builds up over the fibers, gradually increasing in depth until the lungs begin to have difficulty operating properly. It is this scar tissue that causes the victim’s health to decline.

You stand an enhanced chance of developing scar tissue that will lead to asbestosis if you are a smoker in addition to a victim of asbestos exposure since smoking also affects your lungs’ ability to expand and contract properly.

What are the early symptoms of asbestosis?

The earliest symptoms may be hard to detect, especially for smokers. By the time the condition starts to evolve, you may notice:

  • A growing sense of restriction in your chest
  • Difficulty breathing, particularly with exertion
  • A chronic, dry cough that can be disruptive
  • Chest pain which is worse with deep breathing
  • A loss of your appetite, which is caused by the discomfort in your chest
  • Finger deformities, which are caused by a lack of oxygen to your extremities

Some victims notice the deformities of their nails and a “clubbing” of their fingertips before they even notice the shortness in their breath, simply because they may have acclimated to their breathing difficulties over time as the condition slowly worsened.

Asbestosis is not curable at this time — but it can be treated and controlled with proper medical care. If exposure to asbestos has caused your illness, you may be eligible for compensation that can help provide you with the care that you need to live a fuller life and take care of your family.

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How can you prevent a pharmacy error?

You may trust your pharmacist, but it’s a mistake to assume that he or she is infallible. Despite all the precautions that are taken, pharmacy errors happen every day, and some of them can be lethal. Even if a medication error isn’t fatal, it can make you very sick.

What can you do to help prevent pharmacy errors with your medication? There are some important steps that you can take that can help you reduce your risk of a pharmacy error.

1. Know your medications.

Make sure that you know the name of the medication you are supposed to be taking. Check the prescription bottle to see if it is the name you expect. If it isn’t, ask the pharmacist if that’s a generic name or an unfamiliar brand name for what you were expecting.

This can prevent errors that sometimes happen when drugs have similar names. For example, Lamictal and Lamisil are sometimes confused, although one is a drug for epilepsy, and the other is an antifungal.

2. Look at the pills.

If you have received the medication before, make sure that the pills you receive are the same each time you refill the prescription. From time to time, a drug company will switch the design of a pill, but pharmacists usually add a sticker to the bottle to let patients know that it’s still the same medication.

If a pill seems larger, smaller or shaped differently, has letters or numbers you don’t recognize or is a different color than you expect, ask questions.

3. Ask about the dosage.

Find out the dosage and ask for instructions if you aren’t sure how to use a drug. For example, some migraine drugs come with a second dose, but it’s important to wait at least an hour after the first dose before you take the second. Otherwise, you can experience dangerous side-effects.

Essentially, make it your job to check up on the pharmacist. While it’s possible to hold the pharmacist accountable for errors, it’s far better to stay safe.

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Some crayons are believed to contain asbestos

Protecting their children from illness and injury is a parent’s top priority. This causes parents to worry about everything from playground injuries to an outbreak of influenza. It turns out that parents may also need to add crayons to the list of safety issues for their children.

According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), some crayons made by Playskool contain asbestos in toxic amounts. The group tested more than 35 packages of crayons bought at a Chicago-based Dollar Tree store. Because Kingsport is home to several Dollar Tree stores, residents may wonder if the allegedly asbestos-tainted crayons may have harmed their children.

Exposure to asbestos has been linked to serious and life-threatening illnesses such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. It can take years or even decades for these illnesses to manifest, but parents can start watching for symptoms of illness right now. They include shortness of breath, persistent cough, chest pains and many others. It may also be a good idea to talk to an attorney experienced in handling asbestos claims in case an illness should occur.

Currently, no laws exist to regulate how much asbestos is allowed in products for children, according to U.S. PIRG. At this time, no tainted crayons have been identified in Tennessee retail establishments.

In the meantime, it is wise to avoid Playskool crayons that may still be available for purchase in brick-and-mortar retail stores and via online retailers like Amazon. Executives with Dollar Tree said that no asbestos turned up in independent testing of Playskool crayons. A spokesperson with Hasbro, the parent company of Playskool, said that the company is currently investigating the issue.

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How do warming blowers used during surgery cause infection?

Surgical suites are designed to be clean rooms that minimize the risk of infections developing in a patient’s surgery site. Builders create these rooms with a great deal of modern technology. Ventilation systems are an important part of this technology because they direct the flow of air and any bacteria it contains away from the patient’s open surgical site.

Even though the members of a surgical team wear gowns, caps, masks and shoe covers, they still shed tiny bits of skin tissue, known as squames. Ventilation systems force the air in an operating room down and away from the patient. However, warming blowers can interfere with the ventilation and expose patients undergoing surgery to bacteria-laden squames, which the surgical team has shed.

While it is crucial to keep the patient warm during surgery, these warming blowers affect the air flow in such a way that a surgical site infection (SSI) can develop when skin tissues invade the open incision. The blowers are not actually defective, but the fact that they can lead to dangerous infection puts them in the realm of defective medical devices. This is so because designers and manufacturers have a duty to avoid creating products that can harm patients.

Unfortunately, an SSI can be life threatening if left untreated. Anyone can develop such an infection, even those undergoing surgery. If you or someone you love is scheduled for surgery, ask about the hospital’s use of warming blowers and what steps it takes to prevent an associated infection. If you have already suffered such an infection, consider asking a personal injury lawyer if you have grounds to file a defective medical device lawsuit.

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Stay alert about the latest potentially defective drugs

A large part of the way we serve residents of Kingsport involves staying up-to-date about any potential news that might affect our fellow Tennesseans. We use all of our resources to uncover this information so that we are already prepared to help those in need who make contact with our staff. One area we look at regularly is the latest information about defective drugs.

The demand for medication that improves and/or extends life for people suffering from illnesses and injuries may be higher than ever. Drug manufacturers respond to this demand as efficiently as possible. As such, most new and existing drugs are reasonably free from dangerous defects. However, some medicines slip through the cracks and may cause injury to patients.

One of the biggest problems associated with defective drugs is the lack of widespread awareness. Sometimes news about potentially dangerous drugs is not made public on a large scale, despite having attracted the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We want you to know that you can search for the latest news about defective drugs on your own by using the tools on the FDA’s website.

This can alert you to any potential problem with the medications you take and it may explain any unusual symptoms you have recently experienced. If you or a loved one is suffering and you don’t know why, dangerous medications may turn out to be the cause. In turn, this knowledge helps you make an informed decision about the need to consider a legal remedy for your suffering.

The FDA is not the only resource that can offer you authoritative news about drug safety. Injury lawyers are also prepared to field any inquiries or concerns you may have about defective drugs. The good news is that you have the right to hold manufacturers responsible for your injuries in a legal setting. Find out how by visiting our website.

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Secondary asbestos exposure could be the cause of your illness

Many Tennessee residents who are sick with mesothelioma or asbestosis might not know how they became ill. Secondary exposure to asbestos fibers can cause people to become ill even though they might never have worked around this material. This is especially so in older citizens who suffered secondary exposure before the dangers of asbestos became well known.

Secondary exposure to asbestos can occur in several ways. For example, those who worked in or near shipyards, yet did not handle asbestos could suffer exposure indirectly. This exposure occurred because asbestos was used widely in the construction of marine vessels.

Another way secondary exposure occurred in the past and still might occur is through people who work with it. For example, asbestos workers often carried the substance home with them, where it spread to spouses and children. Family members who handled the worker’s soiled clothing probably encountered a large volume of asbestos fibers and dust. Children may have picked up asbestos particles from a parent’s hair, skin or clothing. All of these indirect encounters with the material can lead to severe illness.

One of the most disturbing aspects of both direct and secondary exposure is that it can take years or decades for an asbestos illness to manifest. By the time patients receive a diagnosis, their quality of life has already diminished significantly, and they have accrued massive medical bills. For these sickened residents, filing a successful legal claim might be the only way to continue paying for healthcare and improving the way they live.

Learning more about the legal remedies available for victims can help sick Kingsport residents cope with their illness. We have devoted a portion of our website to asbestos education. We urge you to browse our resources if you or a loved one suffers from an asbestos-related condition.

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Tennessee authorities concerned about fake Percocet pills

There are frequent news reports about the opioid problem in this country and the ability of addicts to obtain drugs like heroin. There are also many kinds of fake drugs available on the street, and in Tennessee, one of those is the counterfeit version of Percocet.

About the real pill

Percocet is a painkiller composed of acetaminophen and oxycodone, a narcotic. The former increases the potency of the latter, making it more effective for mild to severe pain. It should not be taken after drinking alcohol or taking tranquilizers since it can slow or stop your breathing.

The counterfeit pill

A fake Percocet pill looks very much like the real thing, but the ingredients are potentially fatal. In the summer of 2016, special agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began warning the public about the pills, which are made in secret labs and sold on the street. TBI forensic scientists are tasked with the duty of testing such pills in which deadly ingredients are sometimes discovered.

Other concerns

While news reports highlight the opioid crisis in states like New Hampshire, authorities have become increasingly concerned about the availability of various types of fake drugs that can be made to look just like real prescription drugs. In May 2015, during a traffic stop, law enforcement confiscated pills that appeared to be oxycodone. However, when tested, the counterfeit pills were found to contain fentanyl. This is a type of painkiller that is 50 times as potent as heroin and can cause death when taken in high doses.

A word of caution

Addicts are always on the lookout for cheap painkillers, and they are increasingly able to buy them on the street in Tennessee. An experienced attorney will tell you it is not inconceivable for counterfeit drugs to find their way into the hands of patients who need certain types of medication. However, various issues can arise from the misuse of Percocet and other “real” drugs. For example, there are always side effects attached, some of which can be very serious, possibly resulting in lawsuits against drug manufacturers, doctors or pharmacists.

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How can patients learn about new medications they take?

Consumers today are more informed than ever about the potential risks associated with a variety of products. Medication typically tops the list of products about which the public has expressed concern. While people understand that drugs are necessary to treat medical conditions, they worry about suffering harm caused by faulty medication.

Doctors often prescribe several different medications before zeroing in on the one that best benefits a patient. This means that a patient may be taking drugs they know very little about. In best-case scenarios, a doctor discloses everything he or she may know when prescribing a different drug. However, many Tennessee patients want to learn more to cut down the risk of injury caused by possibly defective drugs.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aims to inform people about the facts behind medicines they have never taken before. One of the tools offered on the FDA’s website is a database containing information about drugs. If you type in the name of the medication, the site’s search engine will return any publications surrounding the drug. In most cases, this includes fact sheets as well as data about a drug’s approval process. You can even find discover which drugs have been recalled by visiting the FDA online.

Although responsibility for drug safety lies on the shoulders of pharmaceutical manufacturers, it is wise for consumers to look deeper at all medications they consume. While this cannot always keep you safe from defective drugs, staying informed may reduce your risk of injury. When harm or serious injury has already occurred, it may be in your best interests to discuss the details of your case with an attorney.

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