Every day, millions of people visit their healthcare providers and obtain prescriptions for medication.  But what happens if your pharmacist sends you home with the wrong prescription?  The truth is that pharmacies make mistakes – sometimes purely accidental, and sometimes due to negligence. When you are prescribed or given the wrong medication, your health and wellbeing is placed at risk.

Pharmacy errors occur more often than most patients would like to know.  Whether the error is filling the wrong prescription, inaccurately filling a prescription, or failing to provide patients with necessary information, these errors can be detrimental to patients.  So, what do you do if your pharmacy makes a mistake or gives you the wrong prescription?  That is what our medical malpractice attorney seeks to answer in this post.

Causes of Pharmacy Errors

While numerous factors can contribute to pharmacy errors, three trends are commonly associated with incorrect prescriptions, including:

  • The healthcare provider prescribes the wrong medication
  • The incorrect medication is dispensed by the pharmacy to the patient
  • The pharmacy dispenses the incorrect dosage of medication to the patient

Patients who are prescribed the same medication regularly will likely notice if the information or pill itself has changed.  However, unfamiliar prescriptions or dosages may be difficult to ascertain without closer inspection than that occurring at the pharmacy.  Some medications also are manufactured by different companies or in different batches, which can also affect the appearance of the drug (color, size, shape, etc.).  It is very important to inspect all medications before leaving the pharmacy.

Risks of Pharmacy Errors

The most obvious risk of pharmacy errors is the fact that patients could take the wrong medication, or an inadequate dosage, which could result in illness or injury.  Some patients do not realize that they have been given the wrong prescription medication until after consuming it and noticing unexpected side effects or no effect at all.  Giving patients the wrong medication can have disastrous consequences.

Consider the example of a 2013 case involving CVS Pharmacy.  In this case, CVS came under investigation after retail locations in New Jersey were suspected of mixing medications and providing patients with the wrong medications.  Prescription fluoride tablets for children were mixed with the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen.  High blood pressure pills were replaced with schizophrenia medication.  In addition, prescription drugs for high blood pressure were replaced with cholesterol drugs.

Wrong prescription, Pharmacy Errors

Then, in 2014, Walgreens came under fire after a 14-year-old boy was given the wrong prescription medication, which he took for nearly one month before he and his family realized the error.  After several days on the medication, the teenager displayed erratic behavior, forcing the family to seek medical guidance.  Eventually, it was determined that the teenager’s prescription for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had been filled with an asthma medication.  The label and information on the packaging was correct, but the pills inside were not.

What to do when a Pharmacy Gives the Wrong Prescription

If you have been prescribed a medication and your pharmacy has given you the wrong prescription or you are otherwise concerned about the medication or instructions, it is important to speak up right away.  Any questions or deviations from the expectations of a prescription should be brought to the attention of the pharmacist or prescriber.  Consumer Reports also offers the following advice:

  • Ask the prescribing healthcare provider to write out the name and dosage of the drug on a separate piece of paper, and verify the spelling is correct
  • Make a note of the generic names of medications you may be prescribed
  • It is important that patients always inspect their prescriptions before leaving the pharmacy or consuming medications
  • If the shape, color, or markings is not what you expected, return to the pharmacy and ask to speak to the pharmacist
  • If you took medication before realizing that it was incorrect, consult your healthcare provider or emergency room
  • Always update your pharmacy with a list of allergies or other important information about your medications

Protect Your Rights after a Pharmacy Error

Numerous claims and complaints have been filed against major pharmacy retailers over medication errors, including giving consumers the wrong prescription.  It is important that, as patients and consumers, you understand that you have certain legal rights.  If you have suffered injuries or losses due to a pharmacy error, you may be entitled to compensation.  To learn more about your legal rights, contact a medical malpractice attorney for guidance.

At Brown, Christie & Green, we understand the complicated nature of pharmacy error and malpractice claims.  If you or someone you love has been harmed by a wrong prescription, wrong dose, or inaccurate labeling, contact us to speak with one of our attorneys.  We can help you understand your legal rights and determine the best options possible to ensure you and your family get the help you need.  To get started, fill out our online form to request a free consultation.

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