Watch out for prescription errors when visiting the pharmacy

When discussing risks related to medicine, we tend to think of medical malpractice that occurs within a doctor’s office or hospital. But injuries or fatalities can also happen after a patient has already safely visited a doctor. Accidents can be just as dangerous when made at a pharmacy.

It’s quite scary to think about. Many people depend on prescription drugs, whether the medication is for a specific, temporary illness or an ongoing medical issue. Medication errors such as getting the wrong medicine or getting the wrong dose of medicine can be fatal. Pharmacy-goers need to understand the danger of trusting blindly in pharmacists.

A former pharmacist who is now a university professor says that medication errors are not uncommon at pharmacies. He suspects that mistakes happen because of how busy pharmacists are during their workday. Those mistakes often go unreported.

There is no federal rule that pharmacists must report medication errors unless they are fatal. Reporting medical errors within hospitals is a helpful tool because it allows a better chance to evaluate errors, what caused them and how they can be avoided in the future. Wouldn’t that be the case within pharmacies?

Even if a patient gets the same prescription every month, he can’t be too cautious. He should take a moment to make sure that his pills look like they usually do. He should ask a pharmacist to double check that the medicine and dosage are correct. If he gets home and a pill seems off, he shouldn’t take it until a pharmacist verifies that he’s getting the right medication.

Of course, there are measures that pharmacies can take to improve their accuracy when handling prescriptions such as improved, ongoing training of its pharmacists and computer scanning systems that can help identify medication errors. But there will never be a guarantee that a mistake won’t happen, and when it does, a medication error victim should speak out and take action to hold a wrongdoer accountable.

Source: WPTV, “Prescription mistakes are rampant and under-reported,” Katie Lagrone, April 30, 2012



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