In New Jersey, five CVS locations gave customers the incorrect medication due to dispensing errors in 2012. In one case, the children of an estimated 13 families were given breast cancer medication, Tamoxifen, instead of their prescribed chewable fluoride pills. It may seem surprising for medications with such different purposes to be confused for one another. However, the pills that were mixed together at this store strongly resembled each other in appearance: both were white, round pills that were similar in size. The pills’ subtle differences included:
- The fluoride pills contained the number “1007” and letters “SCI.”
- The breast cancer drug had the letter “M” stamped on it with the number “274.”
The mistake went unnoticed by pharmacy staff for some time. Over the duration of 60 days, families were repeatedly given the breast cancer medication for their children, rather than the prescribed fluoride pills. It wasn’t until parents noticed the issue and reported it that the error was fixed.
Since then, CVS reported four other instances of pharmacy errors. These included:
- CVS in Scotch Plains admitted to filling approximately 30 prescriptions from an automated filling machine for the cholesterol drug atorvastatin; however, the pills were commingled with losartan, a blood pressure drug.
- CVS in Cherry Hill had three customers complain of receiving commingled drugs: schizophrenia drug risperidone with high blood pressure drug metoprolol.
- CVS in Budd Lake gave a customer the cholesterol drug pravastatin instead of the diabetes drug metformin.
- CVS in Rahway filled the wrong dosage of a blood pressure drug at 20 mg instead of 80 mg.
Why Did These Pharmacy Errors Occur?
Some of these mistakes were made because CVS employees poured unclaimed medications back into the pharmacy’s stock bottles, a practice that is against company procedures. In other instances, the bins for the automated filling machines were loaded with pills that had been improperly mixed, according to a statement.
While many pharmacy customers in the area have chosen to take their business elsewhere as a result of the numerous mishaps, one CVS customer argues that the risk of receiving the incorrect medication isn’t heightened at a particular chain pharmacy location. Rather, she believes that these mistakes are the result of an understaffing problem that affects chain pharmacies throughout the country.
In response to these incidents, CVS stopped the use of dispensing machines until all specialists were retrained, and the company agreed to pay $650,000 to the state of New Jersey for a public awareness campaign about prescription drug use. CVS also developed safer procedures for automated filling machines; is participating in assurance reviews; and has posted color images on its website of what certain pills should look like. Despite the pharmacy chain’s efforts, however, medication mistakes can still occur—especially with overworked pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who might be tempted to cut corners to keep up with unmanageable workloads.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Pharmacy Malpractice
To protect yourself and your loved ones from receiving the incorrect medication, consider taking the following measures:
- Know what you were prescribed. When your doctor prescribes a medication, ask her to write the name down for you. Prior to picking up your prescription from the pharmacy, look online to see how the pills should appear. That way, when you pick up your medication, you know exactly what you should be getting.
- Go inside rather than use the drive-thru. Customers who use the drive-thru are likely to feel rushed and are less likely to double check their prescriptions before driving away. Go inside, take your time, and don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist questions about your prescription.
If You Suffer Injuries Due to a Pharmacy Error
If you or someone you know suffered injuries caused by a pharmacy prescription error, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention. Additionally, you should collect any bottles, boxes, packages, or receipts from the pharmacy. Then, consult an attorney immediately. Having legal representation could help you recover financial assistance to pay medical bills and other related damages. By holding companies accountable for their mistakes, you can help prevent future instances of pharmacy errors. Call us at 888-526-7616 for a free consultation to discuss your case, or use our contact form.