Pharmacy errors are a serious problem in the United States. While some of these errors are caught before serious damage is done, others result in serious personal injury or wrongful death. The most tragic of these cases are those that involve children, whose small bodies are even less likely to be able to cope with receiving an overdose or improper medication. Unfortunately problems in our pharmacy system lead to these errors happening all too often.
Young Boy Nearly Killed by Pharmacy Error
CBS Chicago recently reported on a young boy who was nearly killed by a pharmacy error. The five year old boy’s doctor prescribed him an allergy medication. However, the pharmacy that filled the child’s prescription did not give him an allergy medication. Instead the pharmacy gave the child a drug called Haloperidol, which is a powerful antipsychotic medication. The error may have occurred because an adult with the same name as the young boy had a prescription for Haloperidol filled at the same pharmacy. After the child’s parents gave him two doses of the drug they report that the child became unable to breathe or talk. The child’s mother claims to have been told by medical professionals that if she had given her son one more dose of the drug before the problem was caught, her son likely would have died.
How Common Are Pharmacy Errors?
Pharmacy errors are all too common. One study of a hospital pharmacies showed that out of 140,755 medication doses filled by pharmacy technicians during a seven month period 5,075 of the prescriptions contained errors. This means that 3.6% of the prescriptions had errors. Only 79% of those errors were caught during the verification process. The CBS Chicago report cites Food and Drug Administration statistics that indicate that over 1.3 million people are injured each year by medication errors. It also cited another study that found that American pharmacies have an average error rate of 1.7%. That may sound small, but it has to be considered in context. There are roughly four billion prescriptions dispensed each year in the United States. That means that at an error rate of 1.7%, there are roughly 40 million errors each year in American pharmacies.
How to Protect Against Pharmacy Errors
Sometimes there is nothing you can do to protect yourself from pharmacy errors. But some of those errors can be avoided by following a few guidelines:
***Ask your doctor the name of the drug he or she is prescribing, and make sure the name on the prescription bottle matches what your doctor told you.
***Ask your doctor to explain how often you should take the drug and at what dose. Make sure that the instructions on the prescription bottle match what your doctor told you, and if it does not, call to confirm before you use the drugs.
***If this is a drug that you have been taking for a long time and suddenly the pills look different, ask the pharmacist for an explanation.
***If you experience any side effects from a drug that your doctor did not tell you to expect, report the side effects to your doctor to make sure they are normal and not dangerous.
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