We all take prescription medications at one time or another. Our doctor prescribes a specific medication for a specific condition, and we count on the pharmacist to be accurate in filling that prescription. If you take a prescription drug on a regular basis, you are probably confident that you are taking the right prescription. But, do you look at the medication carefully? Do you confirm that it is exactly the medication you were prescribed or do you only check the label on the bottle? What if you require a new medication? Do you verify what the doctor prescribe is indeed the drug you receive?
A pharmacist or technician reads a doctor prescription, pulls the medication off the shelf, counts out the required supply of pills, puts them in a vial, and puts on a label with instructions. Simple, right? Wrong! The number of prescriptions filled is exorbitant and climbing all the time, and unfortunately dispensing errors have become a huge problem. One of the most common errors is giving out the wrong drug. The other is giving the right drug, but the wrong dosage. When this happens, damage may short-term or long-term medical expenses, disabilities, pain and suffering, even death.
How do these medication errors happen? Some reasons for pharmacy errors are the pressure on pharmacists to fill prescriptions within one hour. They are supposed to review each technicians work, but due to understaffing some may forget to double-check. Illegible doctor handwriting may lead to a pharmacist guessing and thereby filling the wrong drug. Many drugs look alike or sound alike, as the case with Hydralazine and Hydroxyzine. A Louisville, KY woman presented a prescription to Walgreens for Hydralazine, a high blood pressure medication, but instead received an antihistamine, Hydroxyzine. Her condition went untreated for two weeks before the error was discovered; by then it was too late.
Nearly half of Americans do not check their prescriptions to make sure they are correct. Although most pharmacies now list a description of the medication on the bottles label or on the medication information sheet given with the prescription this does not mean the prescription is correct. It is important to know your medication and check the label and the actual pills.
Adverse events that can occur when drugs are dispensed as the wrong medications underscore the need for clear interpretation and better communication between the doctors who write prescriptions and the pharmacists who fill them. Medication errors are preventable.
- Know the brand name and generic name of the drug and why you are taking it. Make sure they match.
- Keep a list of all drugs you take, whether prescription or over-the-counter. Be aware of any reactions to other drugs.
- Know the correct spelling of the drug you should be taking. Have your doctor spell it and write it down yourself, clearly and legibly.
- Know the appearance of the drug. It if looks different than it has in the past, that your doctor described, or doesn’t match the bottle. Do not take before talking with the pharmacist.
- Double-check the name of the drug and the dosage and read the manufacturer’s patient information sheet. It is there for a reason; use it.
- Everybody has a role in minimizing medication errors including those receiving the prescription. Never assume that an error can’t happen. Taking a minute to avoid a medication error, can avoid life-long ramifications.
Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.