Malpractice at the Pharmacy

We don’t normally think of danger or risk when we go to have a prescription filled at our local pharmacy.  Maybe that should change.  For a number of reasons, the risk of a misfilled prescription is increasing.

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There are lots of ways a pharmacy can make a mistake and almost all of them can kill or seriously injure you.  I have represented the families of people who died as a result of a pharmacy mistake.  In one of the cases, the pharmacy gave the patient narcotics that were many times the dosage prescribed by the doctor.  She took what she was given and died of an accidental overdose.  Here is list of just some of the ways in which the pharmacy can make a mistake and what you can do about it.

Wrong Patient:  When we pick up our prescriptions, they are almost always in a paper or plastic envelope with our name on the outside.  Unfortunately, we don’t use the envelope.  We use the pills in the bottle that is inside the envelope.  Sometimes, the pharmacy employees place someone else’s bottle in our envelope.  Always make sure the bottle inside is yours and that its label matches the information on the outside of the envelope.

Wrong Medication:  Sometimes the medication inside the envelope is ours and matches the outside but it is not what our doctor prescribed for us.  Before taking any medications make sure the label on the pill bottle is the medicine your doctor wants you to take in the amounts ordered by your doctor.

Wrong Medication II:  In this variation, the medication described on the outside of the pill bottle is what the doctor ordered but that is not the medication actually inside the bottle.  Usually, the information on the outside of the envelope tells us what the the pills in the bottle should look like.  If you are unfamiliar with a new medication, always compare the appearance of what is in the bottle with the description on the outside of the envelope.  If there is no description on the outside of the envelope, you can find one on line.  If this is a medication you have been taking for a while, make sure the pills are the same as the ones you have been taking.  I am taking some medications that are almost identical in size, color and shape.  The only way to tell them apart is by the writing on them.  Just because the prescription looks like what you have been taking doesn’t mean that it is the same.   If you want to be safe, check.

Wrong Dosage:   The medication inside the pill bottle is the medication the doctor ordered but the strength is wrong.   The strength may or may not be accurately described on the outside of the bottle.  If the strength is too low, it may not do you any good.  If it is too strong, it may kill you.

Changed Strength:  In this variation of pharmacy malpractice, the medication is the one the doctor ordered and is one you have been taking for a while.  This time, however, instead of giving you 50 mg pills to take two at a time, the pharmacy gives you 100 mg pills to take one at a time but forgets to tell you that each pill is now twice as strong.  They may also forget to change the dosage pattern on the outside of the bottle as well.  Pharmacies are always supposed to tell you when they make this change but sometimes they forget and you end up taking a lot more of your medication than you are supposed to.  Needless to say, this can be very bad.

What I am suggesting is not hard to do but it is not something we usually think about.  We just assume the folks at the pharmacy are doing their jobs correctly.  After all, they haven’t made any mistakes before.  Hint: It only takes one mistake to kill you or seriously injure you.  Don’t be a sheep.  Take a few moments to check your prescriptions.  You may just save your own life.

So why are pharmacy errors increasing?  More on that next week.

Posted in Medication Errors, Pharmacies, Pharmacy Malpractice |