Last year, Americans filled 4.3 billion prescriptions. Each of those passes down a chain from doctor to pharmacist to patients, and every step carries a chance for human error. A study by the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy stated that at least 1.5 million people are harmed by medication errors each year. These errors can include filling the prescription with the incorrect type of medicine; filling the prescription with the wrong dosage; and giving a patient the prescription meant for someone else.
Although people place their faith in pharmacists and trust that the correct medicine is dispensed to them, sometimes there is negligence. Errors in medication and dosages can lead to serious injuries, drug interactions, and even death.
What You Should Know About Pharmacy Errors
Most prescription errors aren’t reported by pharmacies because they’re not required to do so by law. For most states in the U.S., there is no mandate to report drugstore prescription errors, even if those errors caused patients serious injuries or death. Here are three things you need to know about pharmacy errors:
- Pharmacy errors are on the rise. Medication dispensing errors increase as the number of filled prescriptions rises, according to a recent study. Increasingly, pharmacists are required to work long shifts and churn out a growing number of prescriptions per shift. The numbers of patients filling prescriptions has grown—due partly because of new patients covered under the Affordable Care Act. Under pressure to fill prescriptions quickly and in high volume, pharmacists may not be able to give each order a proper review, and mistakes can be made.
- Pharmacy mistakes can be deadly. Many pharmacy errors involve incorrect dosing and interchanging drugs with similar names. When a pharmacist reads an extra zero or misses a decimal point, the consequences can be serious. Many of the reported cases of pharmacy error resulted in extensive hospitalization, brain damage, and even death.
In 2012, a New York boy nearly died after mistakenly being given methadone instead of his prescribed methylphenidate, the generic name for Ritalin. The two drugs share a similar symbol—an M surrounded by a box—and both come in similar doses.
- Prevention is Possible. Consumers should take an active role in monitoring their medication, making sure it’s accurate and the dosage is correct. The FDA has these suggestions:
- Know what you are taking and why. Ask the prescribing doctor, so you can double check when you receive your medication.
- Know how and when you are supposed to take the medication. Drugs come in different forms and on different schedules.
- Keep a list of all medications and supplements you take. Share that information with the pharmacist. This helps avoid dangerous drug interactions.
- Tell your pharmacist if you have any allergies. This can include drug allergies and allergies for which you take medication.
- Ask questions if you are unsure or something does not seem right. When in doubt, ask before it is too late.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to a prescription drug error, we want to help. Contact us at 888.526.7616 to discuss your case.