Investigative journalists at Portland’s KATU published an in depth report this week on the severity of the pharmacy error problem. They report that 15,000 people are killed each year by prescription pills in the United States. The theory is that due to the danger these pills can pose, those who dispense them should be held to a high standard. But unfortunately, far too many of those charged with the public safety fall short.
The KATU team examined the records of thousands of pharmacies and pharmacy workers. The results were shocking. They found one pharmacist who was working not just drunk, but with a blood alcohol content more than twice what the legal limit is in most states. They found pharmacists taking the drugs they were supposed to be dispensing. At least one pharmacist was taking amphetamines and replacing them with empty capsules. Any of these intoxicated people could make serious errors in dispensing medication.
Other Pharmacy Errors
But some of the pharmacists did not need to be intoxicated to make errors. KATU reported on one pharmacist who made 20 different dispensing errors including both providing improper doses and giving patients incorrect medication instructions. Either error can be deadly.
While KATU focused on Oregon prescription errors, the problem happens all over the nation. If you have been a victim of prescription error in Illinois, the best thing to do is contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. However, the Mayo Clinic, which reports that medication errors injure over one million people a year, does provide information that may help save you from falling victim to this serious problem.
How to Protect Yourself from Pharmacy Errors
The Mayo Clinic stresses that communication is key. Talking to your doctor about the medications he or she prescribes is an important step in making sure you get the correct medication. Learn the name of the drug, what it does, and how long it should take for the medication to make a difference in your condition. Ask your doctor for dosage information and instructions on how often to take the medication. If your pharmacist tells you something different, ask questions of both professionals and find out what the correct information is. Other things you should ask both the doctor and the pharmacist about include:
**Any foods, drinks, or other medications or activities that could interfere with the medicine **The side effects and what you should do if you suffer from side effects **What you should do if you accidentally miss a dose of your medication or if you take too much
Asking questions in not the only thing you can do to protect yourself. The Mayo Clinic says you also need to provide information to both the doctor and the pharmacist, so they are aware of any problems the medication may cause you that it wouldn’t cause for the average patient. This information includes:
**Medications you are already on including OTCs **Any allergies you have, especially allergies to other medications or adverse reactions to other medications **Any seemingly unrelated chronic or serious health problems **If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
While taking these steps may take time, they also may prevent a pharmacy error that could be deadly.