Every day, millions of people see their healthcare providers and obtain prescriptions for much-needed medication. Next, these individuals go to their local pharmacy to fill the prescription, trusting that the pharmacy is safe, and will provide the medication they need. Unfortunately, pharmacies make mistakes every day, and put patients at risk. Most people unfortunately, are not sure what to do when the pharmacy give the wrong prescription. Pharmacy errors are a serious concern that needs to be addressed.
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. Unfamiliar prescriptions or dosages may be difficult to ascertain without closer inspection than that occurring at 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 medication until after consuming it and noticing unexpected side effects or no effect at all.
When the pharmacy error involves the pharmacy giving patients the wrong medication, the risks can be dire. One example of this can be seen in the 2013 case of CVS, which 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.
Then, in 2014, Walgreens came under fire after a 14-year-old boy was given the wrong 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.
What to do when Pharmacy Gives the Wrong Prescription
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 taking them
- 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, always 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. It is important that patients understand that they have legal rights if they have suffered injuries or losses due to a pharmacy error. To explore these rights, contact a medical malpractice and negligence attorney for guidance.