When stopping by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, customers may be more concerned with getting the prescription quickly, or they might be distracted by thoughts of work, kids, and other daily issues. People rarely focus on what’s in their prescription bag or take the time to ask the pharmacist questions. There is a certain level of trust that customers feel about the accuracy of the medication given to them.
But busy pharmacists and pharmacy technicians make mistakes every day. In an interview with NBC, an unnamed pharmacist claimed that every day, at least one pharmacy mistake occurred that wasn’t caught until it was refilled.
There are a variety of mistakes that can be made by a pharmacist or technician. Here is a brief look at some of those possible errors:
- The prescription is misread due to a doctor’s illegible handwriting or a pharmacist’s lack of attention to detail
- The prescription is entered into the computer incorrectly
- Pharmacists fail to closely check the prescriptions filled by pharmacy technicians
- Pharmacy technicians filled the wrong medication
- Two medications are confused
- The correct drug is filled, but it’s the wrong strength
- The correct drug is filled but the wrong instructions included in the packaging
Other Factors That Contribute to Pharmacy Errors
When working to fill prescriptions, pharmacists are consistently interrupted. They’re required to answer phone calls, manage customer consultations, resolve technical issues, and check the work of pharmacy technicians.
Under this pressure, staffing cuts make the work stress even greater. Pharmacists and technicians are responsible for more and more tasks with fewer people. And despite the dangers of pharmacy misfills that may be associated with busy schedules, pharmacies often place pressure on their employees to fill prescriptions quickly, causing pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to experience the following issues:
- Physiological symptoms such as fatigue
- Irregular daily routines, including shortened breaks and late lunches
- Perceived inability to not have enough time to be cautious and pay attention to detail
- Significant amount of stress and related symptoms
Pharmacist Joe Zorek also spoke with the NBC news crew and summed up his experience as a CVS Pharmacy employee in one sentence: “I was concerned we were going to kill somebody."
Zorek filed a whistleblower lawsuit against CVS, claiming the company retaliated against him when he complained about the time constraints CVS put on its employees. He told NBC News that five years ago, everything started being gauged. He said he had “22 seconds to answer a phone. You were getting 15 minutes to fill a prescription.” These time constraints were cut by 20 percent, causing even less time to fill prescriptions and speak with customers.
It Can Happen to You
NBC also interviewed CVS customer Brenda Henninger, who was taking potassium citrate for her kidneys. When picking up her prescription one day, she noticed that the new pills didn’t look quite the way they normally did. “It was not the right pill,” said Henninger. Although the pill looked similar and had a similar name, the pharmacy had given her potassium chloride.
When Henninger brought this error to the attention of the pharmacy, the pharmacy manager said, “Well, potassium is potassium.” However, she learned from another pharmacist that taking the wrong type of potassium can cause a stroke or heart attack.
What You Can Do
The differences in medication can be easy to miss—especially by pharmacists and technicians who work under stressful conditions. To protect yourself and your loved ones, be cautious when accepting prescriptions, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. To help avoid becoming a victim of pharmacy malpractice, be proactive, research the name and appearance of your medication, and voice your concerns.
If you have been injured after taking the wrong prescription, we invite you to order our free pharmacy error book, How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Our Injuries Caused by Medication Errors, or contact us at 888-526-7616 for a free consultation.