During the past few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases our firm is handling involving pharmacists incorrectly filling prescriptions. With the advances in technology that many pharmacies now use, many customers believe that there is less likelihood of receiving an incorrectly filled prescription than in the past. However, many pharmacies are short staffed and there is currently a nationwide shortage of pharmacists.
The cases that our office have handled show the type of mistakes that pharmacies make. An elderly client was given a medication for 3 consecutive months that aggravated his pre – existing digestive condition, instead of the medication that was supposed to help control his condition. The evidence in this case was shocking because it showed that not only had the pharmacy given our client the incorrect medication, but during the applicable time period, it had given every customer that used the medication our client was taking the wrong medication. The pharmacy filled each prescription from a central supply which contained the wrong medication. The condition of several patients may have significantly worsened, yet they may not have identified the cause.
In another case, the patient’s prescription for a common sleeping pill was filled with a arthritis medication. Unfortunately, our client was allergic to this medication and ended up in the hospital with a life-threatening condition. Maybe, the most common error we see is patients being given the incorrect dosage of a medication. We have seen clients given medication with a dosage of 10 times the prescribed strength. Such a drastic error often results in serious injuries to the patient.
Once an incorrect medication is taken, it often difficult for the patient’s physician to identify the cause of the patient’s condition. In fact, it is often the patient or the patient’s family that ultimately discovers the error. This discovery often happens after the patient returns home from the hospital where he or she was treated for the condition caused by taking the wrong medication. During the hospitalization, the hospital often furnishes the correct medication. Therefore, the patient improves and the health care providers have a difficult time reaching a concrete diagnosis.
From our review of incorrectly filled prescription cases, we can offer some advice on how to reduce your chances of having a prescription incorrectly filled. First, we have seen mistakes made by both local pharmacies and large national chains. Secondly, mistakes are likely to happen when a patients prescription is changed to a similar or generic medication. The patient expects a different looking pill and is not alarmed when a different pill is given. In addition, if the patient questions the pharmacy, their staff may also not be alarmed. We have seen more than one patient given assurances that their medication was correct when it was not.
Examine each prescription closely to see if the pill appears to be correct. Many pharmacies now provide a description of the pill in literature provided with the prescription. If that is not available, there are numerous websites that provide the necessary information to identify a medication. There are also reference books available with this information. Unfortunately, many elderly people take numerous medications and may not notice or cannot see the slight differences in appearance of many medications.
If you or your family member becomes ill and the cause is not clear, investigate each medication that the family member is taking. Should you have any suspicions, immediately discuss them with your physician. Ask a friend or relative who is knowledgeable about health care to review the suspicious medication.
Should you discover that you or a family member has been given the wrong medication, report the error immediately to the treating physicians. Keep the prescription bottle, any literature that came with the medication, and the medication in a safe place. It is permissible to show the medication to your doctor, but make sure that you ultimately keep it as it will be important evidence if a suit is necessary. Report the error in a polite manner to the pharmacy. However, do not let the pharmacist keep the medication, the bottle or literature that you received with the prescription. Do not give any statements to the pharmacy or any investigators it retains.
Thankfully, many incorrect prescriptions are identified before any serious permanent damage results.