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Articles Posted in Pharmacy Errors & Misfills

Tragic Pharmacy ErrorsA very simple pharmacy error resulted in the death of a boy after he received the wrong medication and experienced severe complications. The child received the same medication to treat his sleeping disorder for a year and a half before taking the medicine with the wrong ingredients and dying in his sleep. A blood screening after his death revealed that not only was the medication prepared wrongly, but the dose of the incorrect medicine was lethal. There was no shadow of a doubt that the pharmacist’s error cost the child his life, begging a discussion over what forms of oversight are needed to prevent this type of incident in the future.

Death Caused by Compounding Error

The medication the child was taking for his sleep disorder needed to be prepared by his pharmacy as an oral suspension. For a year and a half, his family had been filling their prescriptions at the same place, so what seemed absolutely routine ended in tragedy simply because the person preparing the suspension reached for the wrong ingredient.

The Chicago Tribune published disturbing results from an investigation where reporters attempted to fill prescriptions that had known drug interactions with one another. On numerous occasions, the reports received prescriptions that would have combined to have serious and potentially deadly reactions, proving that there needs to be more oversight involved in the process of filling these scripts. When pharmacies allow errors like this to slip through their fingers, they may be held liable for failing to verify the prescriptions with patients’ doctors to make sure that they are safe when taken with one another.

More than Half of Pharmacies Tested Failed

Potentially Fatal Drug CombinationsIn an effort to gather information from a substantial sample size, reporters selected 255 different pharmacies throughout Chicago to see whether pharmacists would detect the potential drug interactions. An example of a test was presenting prescriptions for two medications that were completely safe on their own, but would cause the muscles to breakdown and for patients to suffer renal failure— which could lead to death.

Hard to Read Prescriptions Lead to Errors in the PharmacyOf all the reasons cited for medication and prescription errors, illegible prescriptions seem to be the most inexcusable. There is no reason that pharmacists should not take the time to contact doctors and confirm their intentions prior to filling a prescription if the doctor’s handwriting is not legible. Unfortunately, many pharmacists assume that they know what is written on the prescription and dispense the wrong medications despite the very best of intentions. New technology is now allowing both doctors and pharmacies to verify prescriptions in an effective and efficient manner so that there is no longer any need for guesswork.

Handwriting is a Major Factor in Pharmaceutical Errors

Doctors must write many prescriptions for their patients on a regular basis and may scribble their prescriptions in haste due to the limited amount of time they have to give each patient under their care. Whether it is the intended dosage or the intended medication itself, it is very easy for pharmacists to mistranslate illegible handwriting when filling a prescription and the easiest way to remedy this issue is to simply contact the doctor and obtain verbal confirmation of the prescription.

Medication Errors with ChildrenMedication errors have become such a growing concern in the United States that the National Center for Biotechnology Information lists them as a leading cause of injury and death. Billions of prescriptions are filled each year and even with a small margin of error, this can result in thousands of deaths and many more injuries. Some of the victims at the greatest risk are children, due largely to the fact that they are unaware of the exact way that medications work and the side effects that may result. It is the responsibility of doctors, pharmacists and parents to take every measure possible to prevent these errors.

What Makes Pharmacy Errors So Common?

The NCBI has reported a rise in the frequency of all medication and pharmacy errors in recent history and part of this can be attributed to the flood of new medications onto the market. Large pharmaceutical companies often rush their latest medicines to market without fully understanding how they may react with other medications, dietary habits and other factors. In other instances, these companies may know of the potential for complication but conceal this information from doctors and their patients. With the release of so many new medications and the need to fulfill billions of prescriptions every year, the pharmacy industry is often stressed and stretched thin.

recalled drugsThe commonality and danger of medication errors is grossly understated, and injuries resulting from these errors are on the rise. In some cases, the errors involve improper dosing or the dispensing of incorrect medications. Others are centered on the fulfillment of prescription medications that have been recalled or removed from the market by the FDA and these incidents indicate the need for greater scrutiny into the methods that pharmacies use to ensure that recalled products are taken off of their shelves in the interest of public safety. There should be no acceptable reason that any pharmacy fails to provide current information to employees concerning recent recalls or to have a process in place to remove these products from circulation.

The Rise of Pharmaceutical Recalls

Information from agencies such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the National Institute of Health reveals that pharmaceutical errors have been responsible for countless injuries and deaths. The data also indicates that the number of these errors is increasing and medication related errors are responsible now for more deaths in the United States than workplace accidents. The NCBI has declared that pharmaceutical errors are one of the leading causes of injury and death in the nation and that there is a valid need for concern.

Reducing Pharmacy ErrorsPharmaceutical workers dispensing medications are often the final link between doctors and patients, to provide necessary drugs for healing. Unfortunately, taking the wrong medication kills nearly one hundred thousand individuals in the United States every year from use and misuse. More than one in five of those medication errors occur from a dispensing mistake at the pharmacy. Many of these mistakes are made because pharmacy workers today fill more prescription orders, work longer hours, perform their duties under more pressure and are given more responsibilities than ever before.

Pharmacy mistakes can involve any type of deviation or inconsistency when filling a prescription order. This includes dispensing an incorrect drug or the right medicine filled with the wrong dosage, or form of dosage. It can also involve filling the order with the wrong quantity or providing inadequate, incorrect or inappropriate labeling.

Pharmacies can dispense prescription medications with inadequate, confusing or incomplete directions on how to use the drug correctly. Other times, the prescription medication is given to the patient after it was inappropriately prepared, packaged or stored.

Phamacy errorThe consequences of a person receiving the wrong medication or the wrong instructions when they have their prescriptions filled at a pharmacy can be deadly. A nationwide study conducted through the Auburn University in Alabama found that 2 out of 100 prescriptions have errors, either in the content or in the labeling. This can attribute to over 60 million prescription errors each year in the U.S, many of which can be prevented. 

Common Causes For Errors

There are many different reasons that these prescription errors happen, from plain human error to equipment. In the Auburn University study, they looked at several factors and found correlation between certain circumstances that seemed to attribute to both the error rate and the rate that errors were detected.