QUALITY QUICKIE: Interview with Robert Wacther

The San Francisco chronicle had a couple of interesting pieces that I read on the plane east this morning.  The first was an interview with Robert Wachter about his new book Internal Bleeding. He has a lot of sensible opinions that are mainstream in the Quality movement, but are yet to really make it into public consciousness.

The reason he’s getting good press is because the book tell stories.  A "fun" one is this about a physician’s poor hand writing causing a little problem. The prescription is reprinted in the book

    We asked 159 physicians to look at the handwritten prescription. Half thought it was for Plendil, a calcium channel-blocker; a third said Isordil, a longer-lasting version of nitroglycerine taken for angina; and others thought it was Zestril, a blood pressure medication. We reproduced the prescription in our book. … Take a look. What do you see?


    Wachter: You would have killed the patient. The prescription was for Isordil, but the pharmacist thought it said Plendil. The daily dosage for Isordil is 80 milligrams; for Plendil, 10 milligrams. The pharmacist read Plendil, the patient took 80 milligrams. He had an eightfold overdose.

    (The patient, Ramon Vasquez, suffered a severe drop in blood pressure, and 24 hours after starting the regimen had a massive heart attack. He died several days later. A jury awarded his widow $450,000.)

Maybe if word gets around we might find some progress on the eRx issue, but recall that this case was in 1991 (or at least that’s what it said in the dead tree edition–edited for space in the electronic version).

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