When taking medication, you trust your doctor and pharmacist to get it right. Unfortunately, some pharmacists get it wrong and make critical errors behind the pharmacy counter that can jeopardize patients’ lives. While some pharmacy errors are simply annoying, other mistakes made with prescriptions can be downright deadly.
Here are some of the ways pharmacy errors take place:
- Wrong medication. This type of pharmacy mistake is often made by negligent pharmacy technicians and overworked pharmacists who don’t double check their work. Typically, these errors occur when drugs look alike or sound similar. Some examples include patients who have received potassium chloride instead of their correct drug potassium citrate for kidney treatment. Another example is when patients receive Clonazepam for schizophrenia instead of Clonidine for blood pressure. When patients receive the wrong drug, they may suffer strokes, heart attacks, or other adverse health concerns.
- Wrong dose. Not only do dosing mistakes frequently occur in hospitals and nursing care facilities, but patients sometimes receive wrong dosages from their local pharmacies. Unfortunately, most patients are unaware that their pharmacist filled the wrong dose of drug. Sadly, it often takes a serious overdose before a mistake of this nature is caught. When this occurs, patients are often hospitalized or even die as a result of being given the incorrect dose of drug.
- Labeling errors. This type of mishap can include missing instructions on the label or wrong directions on how to take the medication. As a result, patients may take the medication incorrectly or not understand the side effects, which can cause them harm.
- Errors with children’s prescriptions. This can include failing to put a childproof cap on a prescription, and it can also include the wrong drug or too strong of a drug being given to children. For example, a CVS in New Jersey was fined for giving children a breast cancer treatment drug instead of fluoride tablets.
- Patient mix-up. Pharmacies have been known to give patients someone else’s prescription bottles due to sheer negligence or because customers have the same date of birth or similar-sounding names. When pharmacies don’t adhere to verification rules and don’t have good processes in place to stop these types of mistakes from happening, customers may get someone else’s medication.
- Drug interaction errors. Many patients see several doctors and take many different drugs to treat their ailments and injuries. When pharmacists fail to review patients’ medications to see if they interact with each other, they may miss something and patients may suffer.
The Reality of Pharmacy Errors
Pills are small, but they can have major adverse effects when mistakes are made. Because drugs are so powerful, it is critical that pharmacists fill each patient’s prescription correctly. If mistakes are made and patients are given the wrong drug or incorrect dose of medication, they can be seriously harmed instead of helped.
Unfortunately, pharmacy mishaps occur more often than we realize. This is because pharmacies aren’t mandated to report their errors. The only way people are aware of such errors is when patients complain and states take disciplinary action or media investigations are conducted. In fact, most people don’t even realize what goes on behind the pharmacy counter.
According to a report from NBC Washington D.C., prescription errors occur because pharmacists are overworked and are pressured to conduct certain tasks quickly and fill a certain quota of prescriptions per day. For example, an ex-pharmacist with CVS said they were given 22 seconds to answer a phone and 15 minutes to fill a prescription. It’s almost if pharmacies are imitating fast food restaurants — trying to get customers in and out of there as fast as possible.
When people are pressured to work quickly, mistakes can happen. This is because people cut corners, don’t double check their work, and are just negligent when pressed for time. When pharmacies emphasize the importance of prescription speed over accuracy, prescription mistakes are the outcome—resulting in unnecessary patient injuries and fatalities.
How to Prevent Such Errors
Although pharmacy error prevention should be the responsibility of the pharmacists filling our prescriptions, consumers are also urged to take steps when it comes to taking medication. Some tips can include:
- Double check the name and dose of the prescription the doctor gave you with what is actually filled by the pharmacist.
- Look up each prescription online through a site like drugs.com. It will show you a picture of what the pill should look like.
- Consult with the pharmacist. Pharmacy consultations are often not offered, but it is your right as a consumer. Many mistakes are caught during a pharmacist consultation.
- Be aware of refill mistakes. When receiving a refill, if the pill looks different, (i.e., is a different color or shape) it is important to question the pharmacist.
Although taking these steps can help reduce your chances of being harmed when picking up a prescription at the pharmacy, sometimes errors aren’t always obvious to consumers and harm occurs anyways.
When Pharmacy Negligence Causes Harm
If you or a loved one’s health suffered due to any type of pharmacy error, you have a right to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. The reality is that pharmacy malpractice is medical malpractice, and those affected by such negligence should hold negligent parties responsible for the wrongs suffered. A medical malpractice lawsuit allows victims of pharmacy negligence to receive compensation for their medical expenses, physical therapy and rehabilitation, lost wages, and future lost income.
If you would like to discuss your potential case regarding pharmacy malpractice, we would be honored to speak with you. Feel free to call our law office for a free consultation today at (703) 591-0067. Or if you aren’t sure you want to speak with us at this time, please learn as much as you can about your rights and order a free copy of our book, Do I Have a Case? A Patient’s Guide to Virginia Medical Negligence Law.