A new study examines why pharmacists continue to fill prescriptions even after doctors have taken patients off of the medication. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, there are many pharmacists who continue to dispense medicine even though doctors have ordered the prescription to stop.
The study reviewed and analyzed 30,406 adult health records in Massachusetts. They looked at those records in which a doctor had discontinued a drug to treat high-risk conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, and platelet aggregation. They discovered that 83,900 prescriptions were discontinued over a year, but that pharmacists continued to dispense 1,218 of these drugs. In fact, 1 in 100 prescriptions that were to be discontinued were filled by pharmacies anyway.
This pharmacy error could cause patients serious harm because patients are often unaware of changes to their medication. Doctors most likely take their patients off of medications for good reason. Sometimes, a patient no longer needs the medication, and other times the patient is prescribed another similar medicine to take the place of the unintended prescription. So, why are pharmacies dispensing medication after the doctors take the patients off of these drugs?
Some experts believe that electronic health records may contribute to this problem; these systems may give doctors a false sense of efficiency and accuracy. However, the main reason pharmacy errors like this happen is because pharmacists are human and will make mistakes, especially when there are over 3.7 billion prescriptions filled in the U.S. in a given year.
The study revealed that the most common medicine that pharmacists continued to fill after a doctor cancelled a prescription was metoprolol, also known as Lopressor or Toprol. This drug can interact with other drugs and cause harmful affects to patients. Unfortunately, pharmacists may overlook drug interactions because of their busy schedules.