More and more, pharmacy technicians are replacing pharmacists to fill prescriptions. While pharmacies are able to save money by hiring technicians who are paid lower wages, many are going a step farther by using robots to fill customer prescriptions. While robots are usually more efficient and make fewer mistakes than human employees, the number of people affected by these errors before they are noticed can be much more significant than mistakes made by humans.
Pharmacy misfills are a major cause for concern in the United States. Approximately 1.3 million people are injured annually because they are given the wrong medication and, according to the FDA, roughly one person every day dies as a result of pharmacy mistakes. While there are many reasons that a consumer might be given incorrect medication, one cause is pharmacy use of robots to fill prescriptions. Both CVS and Walgreens use this method.
In a pharmacy, the robot serves as the pharmacy technician and pharmacist by:
- Counting pills
- Filling prescriptions according to the dose, drug, and number of pills
- Putting the pills into the bottle
Pharmacy Trust in Robots
While pharmacists are still expected to review each pill bottle before it leaves the pharmacy, often they are simply too busy or distracted to give their full attention to each individual prescription. They also may feel inclined to place too much trust in technology and fail to adequately inspect the prescription. While robots are usually more accurate than humans, mistakes can still be made when machines fill the bottles—and failing to identify these mistakes can have deadly consequences.
Mistakes made with robot fills occur because human beings are removed from the fill process. When a mistake is made by a human, there’s a chance that, at some point in that process, it will be noticed before being passed into the hands of a patient. But when robots are used to fill prescriptions, it’s possible for incorrect medication to be given out multiple times before the mistake is noticed. This increases the number of people at risk for receiving the wrong medication during a pharmacy visit.
How to Protect Yourself From Pharmacy Negligence
If your CVS pharmacy uses automated dispensing machines or robots, be sure to check your pills for accuracy. Verify that they look like they should; the instructions on the bottle are the way your doctor described them to you, and you’re getting the correct type, dosage, and amount. Additionally, you may want to:
- Consult with your pharmacist. Initiate a conversation about the medication, potential side effects, and any drug interactions that could occur. Any attention you bring to your medication could help you catch a pharmacy fill error.
- Go inside. With a long line of cars waiting for their prescriptions at the drive-up window, you may feel too rushed to check your medication adequately. Give yourself ample time to review your medication by using the walk-up counter instead of the window.
- Ask questions. The pharmacist is there to help you understand your prescription. Use that resource, and ask questions if you’re unsure about any aspect of your medication.
- Research your medication. Know what your drug looks like before you accept it from the pharmacy. The more you know, the safer you will be.
Pharmacy robot errors can be serious because they typically affect a larger group of people with the same prescriptions and can take more time to be noticed. If you have suffered an injury, acquired hospital bills, or experienced other damages as a result of a robot pharmacy error, you may have a CVS pharmacy claim. To find out more about your rights, order a free copy of our book, How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Injuries Caused by Medication Errors.