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Prevalence Of Pharmacy Dispensing Errors

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.

  • Lighting. Poorly lit work areas seemed to be linked to errors, especially drug content or type errors. 68% of the content errors were in low lighting areas.
  • Background noises. When there were high levels of background noise, more prescriptions that had errors went undetected by the pharmacy staff.
  • Number of pharmacy staff. If less pharmacists and technicians were on staff, more content errors occurred and with fewer detections of errors. 79% of content errors happened when only one pharmacist was working.
  • Patient bins. Having individual patient bins for medications helped increase the detection of errors.
  • Inspection system. Pharmacies that only used manual inspection versus bar code and manual inspection caught fewer errors.
  • Shelving and space.  Pharmacies that had shelves that were tightly packed with medications made 2/3 of the total amount of drug content errors.

Preventing Mistakes At Pharmacies

To error may be human, but when these errors can put another person’s life at risk, they must be prevented if at all possible. There are many safeguards that pharmacies can use to help eliminate these mistakes and reduce the risk to their customers.

  • Transcription errors. Many errors can happen when a phone order is taken or if the handwriting is questionable. Reading back all verbal prescriptions after they have been wrote down and getting clarification on any instructions that are not clear can eliminate many errors.
  • Similar drugs. Drugs that have similar names or look alike need to be flagged on the bottles and in the computer to reduce confusion. Up to one-third of mistakes happen from similar drugs being swapped.
  • Staffing. Keeping the staffing at levels needed to perform the work and allow for needed breaks and days off is important to reduce stress and mistakes.
  • Double/triple check. Prescriptions need to be checked over and over. They need to be visually checked to make sure the printed label, the drug on the computer, on the paper, in the bottle, all match the customer.
  • Environment. Good lighting, soundproof dispensing rooms and well-organized shelves can all help eliminate errors.
  • Counseling. Over 80% of errors can be caught during the counseling of the patient. Never skip the counseling.

By taking some extra effort, many of these mistakes can be either avoided or caught before they endanger the patient.

Attorneys who prosecute errors made by pharmacies

Every pharmacy has a duty to accurately fill medications for customers.  When pharmacies fail to uphold this responsibility and and error results in harm or death of a customer, the pharmacy is legally responsible for all damages.  As attorneys who prosecute pharmacy mistake cases, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC will prosecute the case on your behalf without any expense on your part. Don’t expect a pharmacy do pay what you justly deserve until they are pressed to do so.