When prescribed, medications taken alone are relatively safe and effective for treating specific health conditions; however, when taken in combination with another drugs, medications can have very serious side effects. Many people are required to take multiple prescription drugs to treat different injuries and ailments, and while most doctors and pharmacists review the different medications with their patients to ensure the various drugs are safe to take together, some doctors and pharmacists may miss a dangerous drug combination.
According to a recent investigation conducted by the Chicago Tribune, one in ten people takes five or more medications. Those different drugs have to work well together or else it can lead to serious health issues and hospitalization. Some of the many adverse outcomes of dangerous drug interactions include:
- Breakdown in muscle tissue
- Kidney failure
- Unexpected pregnancy with birth defects
- Oxygen deprivation
Reasons for Pharmacy Errors Involving Dangerous Drug Combinations
Whether there is a breakdown in the process or pure negligence occuring behind the pharmacy counter, many customers have been harmed over the years as a result of dangerous interactions from prescription drugs. Some of the reasons for the mistakes include:
- Failure to follow procedures. Many pharmacies require their pharmacists to read each patient’s profile before dispensing medication. This means that a pharmacist would know the patient’s age, allergies, pre-existing conditions, medications, and other patient history. Having this information should help pharmacists avoid making pharmacy errors involving harmful drug combinations; however, some pharmacists don’t follow procedures and fail to read patients’ profiles—causing them to miss a drug interaction.
- Ignored computer alert systems. Computer systems that pharmacists use are designed to alert pharmacists of dangerous drug interactions; however, these alerts pop up so often that pharmacists get “alert fatigue” and ignore them. Also, computer alerts sometimes don’t work correctly. Many pharmacies need to update their systems and provide better training for their pharmacists on using the alert systems.
- Pressed for time. Pharmacists are constantly pressured to fill medications faster and faster, which causes them to miss safety checks. Sadly, many pharmacies are prioritizing fast service over patient safety. Also, many chain store pharmacists are required to fill prescriptions in a certain amount of time, causing them to miss potential drug interactions.
The scary reality is that drug interaction errors occur frequently due to pharmacy negligence. The Chicago Tribune tested 255 pharmacies in Chicago and found that fifty-two percent of pharmacies dispensed risky medication pairs without warning patients of the potential interaction.
Why Are Pharmacists Missing Dangerous Drug Combinations?
Tribune reporters tested pharmacies by taking two prescriptions to get filled for medications that were dangerous to take together. In over half of the tests, pharmacists filled the prescriptions without even warning the reporter of any potential danger. This happened at CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, other chain pharmacies, and even at independent pharmacies.
One of the reasons this is happening is that pharmacists aren’t reviewing patient’s profiles and current medications; however, this is one of their primary duties—to check for potential drug interactions. If they detect a serious interaction, they should verbally warn the patient, and in some states, they are even required to contact the doctor to verify the prescription. But many pharmacists are just quickly filling prescriptions and not doing any safety checks due to time constraints.
Following this study, the reporters contacted the pharmacists to tell them about the study and to find out why so many dangerous drug combinations were sold. Most of the pharmacists interviewed talked about how busy they were—filling a prescription every two minutes. The frightening fact is pharmacists are cutting corners and not prioritizing safety checks because of an emphasis from corporate to focus on speed and quantity.
When safety checks are skipped, people are harmed as a result. If you or a loved one suffered an injury as a result of taking a dangerous drug combination, a pharmacist or doctor—or major chain retailer—could be to blame for not catching the medication error. Please contact us to discuss your potential medical malpractice case and learn about your rights in a free consultation.