Mistakes by Pharmacists and Pharmacies When Dispensing and Filling Prescriptions
The miracles of pharmaceutical science have the potential to dramatically improve quality of life, but there are many potential pitfalls between receiving a prescription and getting it filled by a pharmacy. Unfortunately, a doctor can prepare the right prescription, yet you can still suffer needless injury when a pharmacist or other pharmacy worker makes a mistake.
Pharmacy errors can take a variety of forms:
- Confusion among similarly-named products — Unfortunately, both brand and scientific names for pharmaceutical products can have similar-sounding names. A frequent error involves carelessly confusing one drug for a similarly-named medication. Consider Avelox (used to treat bacterial infection) and Avonex (to treat multiple sclerosis). There's also Celebrex, a pain-killer, and Celexa, an anti-depressant.
- Compounding errors — Many prescriptions require that pharmacists make a compound by mixing a number of substances. A pharmacist may use the wrong formula, the wrong ingredients, or the wrong measurements. In addition, pharmacies may not have appropriate monitoring and measuring programs in place.
- Human error — There are myriad ways that human carelessness can cause pharmacy errors. The handwriting of the physician may be confusing or difficult to read, and the pharmacy may fail to confirm the accurate prescription. Prescriptions that are keyed into computers may be done incorrectly. Pharmacy workers may pull a product from the wrong shelf or there can be miscommunication between two employees working on the same prescription.
- Failure to recognize dangerous drug interactions — Most pharmacies rely on computer programs to flag potentially dangerous drug combinations. However, studies show that those programs miss such issues almost 75% of the time.
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the single factor most often cited as contributing to pharmacy error is understaffing. In more than half of all reported cases involving pharmacy errors, the pharmacy stated that employees were too busy or received too many phone calls.