Some Pharmacy Errors Can Cause Harm
Pharmacy errors may have serious consequences. Many pharmacy errors go unreported because they remain undetected or cause no obvious harm. Potential problems make it imperative for people taking prescription drugs to always check the medication they receive. Though pharmacy errors are unlikely occurrences, they do happen. A watchful eye can help rectify the mistake quickly.
My Experience with a Pharmacy Error
It has happened to me. My internist gave me samples of a high blood pressure medicine and also a prescription for the medication. I was unfamiliar with the drug, unlike many of the arthritis medications I take daily. I filled the prescription after I had used all of the samples. The prescription I picked up from my pharmacy appeared to be the same color (though I later determined there was a slight variation) and the shape of the pill seemed exactly like the samples I had been taking. I neglected to compare the imprint on the pill because I did not suspect any error had occurred in dispensing the medication.
Nearly a month later, it was time to get another refill and at that time I noticed the slight variation between the pills. Though they were the same shape and had nearly undetectable color variation, the number imprinted on the pills were two digits apart. I could have called the pharmacy and inquired but decided to do my own research on the Internet. I typed in the name of the medication and the number imprinted on the pills. I determined that the previous month I had been given the wrong strength of the medication. I was lucky. The error did not cause any harm.
A Fatal Consequence
A 79-year-old man was given the wrong medication causing him to slip into a coma a day later and die 22 months later. His family has been awarded $31 million, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. In this case, a pharmacist admitted to drug addiction and stealing OxyContin and hydrocodone from the pharmacy for 8 years. Jurors reportedly believed the pharmacist was under the influence the day he dispensed an insulin pill rather than a gout pill to the man who died. Ironically, during the trial, a family member of one of the jurors also experienced a pharmacy error but the error was caught without incident.
Tips for Spotting Pharmacy Errors
The consequences of pharmacy errors can range from harmless to fatal. Certain actions can help people who take prescription drugs ensure their own safety.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times 9/30/2006, Mixup Costs Walgreens $31 million, by Steve Patterson, <www.suntimes.com/news/metro/78254,CST-NWS-walgreens30.article>