Reasons Behind Patient Medication Mix-Ups at the Pharmacy

patient mix-up at pharmacyMany different people of all ages need medications to treat their injuries and ailments. While some people need powerful pain medications, others may need blood pressure medication or mild antibiotics. In fact, there are actually thousands of prescription drugs that are designed to treat various health complaints, and many of those medication names sound similar to those of others—just like many people’s names are similar to other patients’ names. Unfortunately, pharmacies can confuse one patient for another and mix up their medications.

Although pharmacies generally have procedures to avoid confusion between similar-sounding patients’ names, the reality is that pharmacy negligence occurs for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Distraction. Pharmacy technicians generally take payment and in return give out a prescription medication to a customer. Unfortunately, they may make mistakes due to sheer negligence or distraction. For instance, the phone may ring while they are trying to get a customer’s medication or they may be in a hurry to check a customer out and they end up grabbing the first medication they see with the patient’s last name, failing to consider there may be other customers with the same last name.
  • Lax procedures. Many people have the same last name or same date of birth, which is why the staff at pharmacies is supposed to verify a customer’s unique information before handing out a prescription. Unfortunately, some pharmacies don’t have the rules in place that require unique identifying data from their customers. They simply ask for the customer’s name and hand out medication in return.
  • Failure to follow the rules. Most pharmacies have identity-verification procedures in place that require a pharmacy staff member to confirm a customer’s birthdate, phone number and/or address in addition to the customer’s name. By verifying this information, a pharmacy can make sure the correct medication is given out to the correct patient. However, sometimes pharmacy staff members feel like they know the customer and don’t ask for identifying information.

Because there are many people in the world with similar names or even the same name, it is critical that pharmacies take extra steps to ensure customers are being given the correct medication. When pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other pharmacy staff fail to do so, people can get the wrong medication (a medication meant to treat a very different condition than what is prescribed) and the results can be serious and even life-threatening.

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