To you, the pharmacy may just be one stop you have to make on your way home. But to a pharmacist, you are one of hundreds of prescriptions filled on a daily basis. To get an idea of just how busy a pharmacy can be, a single pharmacist may fill up to 25 prescriptions in an hour. Because pharmacies are busy places and pharmacists’ workloads are heavy, mistakes with medications are bound to occur.
Gerald Gianutsos, an associate professor of pharmacology at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, told US News that it is estimated that one to five percent of prescriptions filled at pharmacies in the United States involves an error. Because pharmacy errors occur more than you realize, it is wise to know about the four common types of errors that take place, which are:
- Incorrect directions. According to Gianutsos, getting a prescription with the wrong directions on the label is the most common type of pharmacy error that occurs.
- Getting someone else’s medication. Another pharmacy mistake is when a pharmacist hands a customer a bag with their name on it but someone else’s name is on the prescription label inside the bag. Getting another customer’s prescription is a common mistake, according to Michael Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices
- Wrong medicine. Another type of mistake occurs when a pharmacist grabs the wrong drug by mistake due to a sound-alike or look-alike spelling.
- Incorrect dose. While it is more rare, patients can get the wrong dose of medication which can have dangerous side effects.
Because medication mistakes can happen in any of the above ways, you should know how to deal with them. First, it is always best to be alert and check your own medication before leaving the pharmacy in order to prevent a prescription error. Also, it is in your best interest to go to the same pharmacy and have a consultation with your pharmacist—even on refills.
If you or someone you love has suffered harm as a result of a prescription error, get a copy of our report, How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Injuries Caused by Medication Errors.