A retired pharmacist was interviewed by USA Today in 2008, and he told of terrible working conditions for pharmacists and pharmacy techs, as well as the medication error epidemic.
Mr. William Kennedy had retired from his 42-year career as a Walgreens pharmacist in 2006. He is the former President of the National Pharmacist Association, a union representing pharmacists in Illinois and northwestern Indiana. In the interview, Mr. Kennedy gave the following figures for his store, which was not a 24-hour store, but did have a drive-through window.
- 12-hour shifts for pharmacists
- 300 prescriptions filled every day
- An average of fifty errors caught by the pharmacist every day
Let's think about this. If the pharmacy is filling 300 prescriptions each day during a 12-hour shift, that leaves roughly two minutes per prescription filled. Just two minutes to:
- read, understand, transcribe,
- locate the pills on the shelves,
- make sure the pill is the right dose,
- make sure it's the right pill (many drugs have similar names but serve different functions),
- check for contraindications and drug interactions,
- count the pills,
- put them in the vial,
- label the vial with the right patient information and instructions
- bag and place the medicine in the right place, according to pharmacy system.
- counsel patients on the proper use and any side effects of the medicine.
This list is assuming that the doctor's writing is legible, that the pharmacy tech understands all the notes and medical jargon on a script, and that the pharmacist doesn't have to call the doctor for clarification. In addition, pharmacy techs have to run checks to be sure your insurance will pay for your medicine, which can be time-consuming.
Two Minutes is not Enough to Ensure your Safety
Walgreens, CVS, Caremark, Rite-Aid, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target have pharmacists who should all slow down to perform this important role safely. Your health is worth more than two minutes. Two measly minutes for a prescription that can harm or kill if used improperly for any reason. Two minutes to be sure the medicines we need to save our lives are safe and proper for us as individuals.
Why does this happen?
Simply put, it happens because these corporations would rather pay a few lawsuits as a business expense than pay for an additional pharmacist. Mr. Kennedy described literally running to the bathroom and back, because walking would take too much time.
What can be done?
If you have been injured or suffered the loss of a loved one because of this kind of pharmacy malpractice you have the right to sue the pharmacy. You can report it to the Pharmacy Board in your state, but the complaint is likely to fall on deaf ears. Pharmacy Boards are too close to the corporations (link to other article), and not close enough to the patients or the pharmacists.