With convenient locations, drive-thrus, quick fill times, and speedy check-outs, the popularity of chain pharmacies isn’t surprising. As American society becomes increasingly more fast-paced, demand for these conveniences is likely to grow. However, while those accustomed to fast food drive-ins and online shopping may find quick-fill pharmacies appealing, the reality is that using these pharmacies can have significant and possibly life-threatening consequences for a variety of reasons.
Pharmacy workers aren’t just responsible for filling prescriptions. They’re also tasked with handling the main counter, answering telephone calls, and greeting drive-thru customers. Thus, their attention is spread across a number of different areas, making it easy for distractions to affect their precision and attention to detail. As the number of responsibilities that a pharmacist or pharmacy technician is expected to manage increases, so does the likelihood of error.
Pharmacy Employees Overworked
As the population ages and an increasing number of medications go on the market, more and more people are taking prescriptions, and pharmacies are seeing a rise in daily output. But while the amount of work is increasing, many pharmacies are failing to hire adequate staff to meet the demand. This leaves pharmacy employees with more work to manage. Due to increased workloads, most chain store pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens urge their pharmacists and techs to fill prescriptions in five minutes or less, compared to eight minutes more than two decades ago. And as pharmacists are pressured to be more efficient, they rarely have time to speak with patients—a practice that could prevent mistakes involving drug interactions, incorrect dosage, or even incorrect medication.
Not surprising, pharmacy employees who are overworked are likely to experience symptoms of fatigue, and this may interfere with mental clarity, attention to detail, and accuracy—all important to prevent errors or misreading prescriptions. A number of medications are similar in appearance or have similar names, and when pharmacists and technicians are tired, they risk overlooking the correct drug name, mistaking it for the similar sound-alike or look-alike drug.
How to Protect Yourself
With a focus on increasing revenue and speed of service, it’s easy for chain pharmacies to make prescription errors. There are, however, steps you can take to protect yourself, including:
- Check what’s in your package. Before you leave, check the name, strength, color, and attached instructions, especially if it’s a new prescription. It could prevent you from falling victim to a pharmacy error.
- Verify. Ask your doctor to write down the name of your prescription, so you can research it ahead of time and compare the name you receive from the pharmacy. If the names are not the same, you may have a generic version of the same medication, but it is always best to check.
- Slow down. Whether at the drive-thru or at the counter, take your time and ask the pharmacist questions to ensure that you are taking the correct strength and dosage.
- Ask about drug interactions. Patients may see more than one doctor, and customers may pick up more than one prescription. Be sure to ask the pharmacist about dangerous drug interactions or contraindications.
Some pharmacists dispense 10,000 prescriptions a month. In this speed-driven industry, mistakes are easy to make, especially when there is a nationwide shortage of trained pharmacists, and many existing pharmacists are being replaced by technicians with far less training and experience. To protect yourself, it’s important to look for signs that you have received the incorrect medication or dosage. If you believe that you or a loved one experienced pharmacy malpractice or negligence, contact us at 888-526-7616 for a free case review, or fill out our confidential contact form.