The Causes and Consequences of Pharmacy Errors Involving Wrong Medications

pharmacy errors harm patientsPills may be small, but they are powerful. And while this is good when used correctly, if a person gets the wrong pill, the consequences can be very serious and even fatal. Unfortunately, the wrong medication is occasionally given out at pharmacies causing customers to unknowingly take the wrong pills and suffer the adverse effects.

In this article, we will look at the reasons behind medication mistakes and the dangerous consequences that result.

Causes of Wrong Medications

Although there are many reasons a customer could receive the wrong drug from a pharmacy, the main cause is pharmacy negligence. The cause of negligence could be as simple as a pharmacist or pharmacy technician getting distracted when filling a prescription or being overly tired from working too many hours. Some other causes of pharmacy medication errors include:

  • Sound alike or look-alike medications. When a prescription is called into a pharmacy, it can be confused with a sound-alike drug. Likewise, when a written prescription is taken to a pharmacy, it can be confused for another drug with a similar name. While these mistakes occur less and less because of the move to electronic prescriptions, they still happen from time to time. For instance, Altocor and Advicor sound similar, as do Amicar and Omacor. There are many drugs that sound similar to others but are used to treat different health concerns.
  • Overworked and pressured pharmacists. In recent years, many major retail pharmacies have been known to prioritize speed and quantity over accuracy. This means that they pressure their pharmacists to fill a certain number of prescriptions over a certain time period. Unfortunately, such pressure sometimes causes pharmacists to take shortcuts and not double check their work or a technician’s work. As a result, wrong medications can get into the hands of customers.
  • Lax procedures and protocols. Pharmacies have procedures in place to confirm customers’ identities so patient mix-up situations don’t occur. For example, when a customer comes to pick up a prescription, a pharmacy technician or cashier may ask for the customer’s name, birthdate, and address to confirm a customer’s identity – ensuring they are giving the patient the correct medication. However, when a pharmacy employee ignores the protocols and simply asks for the customer’s name, they may give a customer the medication for someone with a similar name. Consequently, a customer can be sent home with the wrong medication.
  • Mislabeled medication. On rare occasions, medications come mislabeled from the pharmaceutical company or manufacturer. And sometimes medications are accidentally mislabeled by a pharmacist. In either event, the wrong pills may be given out to customers due to a mislabeling error.

Adverse Effects of Wrong Medications

When a person takes the wrong drug due to pharmacy negligence, the consequences can range from minor to life-threatening. For instance, the wrong drug can lead people to suffer the following effects, to name a few:

  • Poor diabetes control. Diabetics need the correct drug and strength of insulin to treat their diabetes. For example, when Novolin and Novolog (insulin medications) get confused for each other, a person can suffer hypoglycemia, which can be a very serious medical condition.
  • Seizures. When a patient needs a medication to control seizures and receives the wrong medication, he or she may suffer a loss of seizure control.
  • Heart attacks and strokes. Many drugs cause heart attacks and strokes when taken with other medications in the wrong combination. This is why it is critical pharmacies give patients the correct medications.
  • Renal failure. A strong dose of the wrong medication can sometimes shut down a person’s kidneys (also known as renal failure).

Sadly, there are many more harmful effects of taking the wrong medication. If you or a loved one suffered an adverse health concern because of a wrong medication error that occurred at the pharmacy, you may have a medical malpractice claim. For advice and more information, please contact us online today or call our law firm for a free consultation.