Drug error kills 2 Alberta hospital patients

2 Calgary hospital patients die after being given wrong drugs during dialysis treatment.

Health officials in Calgary issued an emotional public apology Thursday to the relatives of two patients who died after receiving the wrong drugs during dialysis.

The elderly woman and middle-aged man were given potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride at the Foothills Hospital.

Potassium chloride is usually the drug given to death row inmates who are executed by lethal injection.

The wrong solutions were prepared by the Calgary Health Region's pharmacy, officials said. Both compounds were purchased from the same company and had identically shaped bottles and similar packaging.

Once the mistake was discovered, the rest of the batch of bags was retrieved and no other dialysis patients were put in danger, officials said.

"I would like to offer my deepest sympathies to the families that have suffered this devastating loss," said Dr. Bob Johnston, the region's chief medical officer.

Johnston fought back tears as he read a statement to a news conference Thursday afternoon.

* Coverage from CBC Alberta

The victims' families were told about the cause of death Wednesday night. Both patients had been critically ill and received their treatment in the hospital's intensive care unit.

The health region said it's taken steps to prevent a similar tragedy, such as marking potassium chloride with bright green labels and storing it in secure areas.