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Can you protect yourself from pharmacy error?

Your doctor prescribed pain medication to get you back on your feet after hip replacement surgery. You head into your pharmacist and pick up your prescription before driving home. But how confident can you be that you have the right medication, and in the right dose?

Typically, people trust their pharmacist and take whatever drug is handed to them without question. However, pharmacists make mistakes more often than we like to think, and the consequences can be disastrous. Just how often do pharmacists make mistakes?

The statistics

On average, researchers believe that pharmacists make prescription errors between 1 to 5 percent of the time.

In a ten year study, “2013 Pharmacist Liability: A Ten-Year Analysis,” researchers found that of lawsuits brought against pharmacists, 43.8 percent of patients received the wrong drug, and 31.5 percent of patients received the wrong dose. 13.6 percent of these mistakes led to an overdose. 11.7 percent led to death.

What causes the errors?

Pharmacists primarily make mistakes due to simple human error. They may mistakenly grab the wrong medication off of the shelf, give the prescription to the wrong customer, misread the prescription instructions or grab a similar sounding medication.

Pharmacists may be overworked, tired, and moving too quickly when many people are waiting for help. A single pharmacist may fill up to 25 prescriptions each hour, leaving ample opportunity for a mistake. Only a minimal number of pharmacist errors stem from reckless conduct or disregard for the patients.

How can you avoid errors?

Pay attention when your doctor prescribes medication. Know what medication you are picking up at the pharmacy, the dose and what the pills look like. After the pharmacist hands you the prescription, examine the label and the medication inside. Compare the name and dosage information printed on the side with what the doctor told you to expect. Take a pill out of the bottle and see if it matches the doctor’s description.

If you have any concerns or questions, ask the pharmacist. Ask about possible drug interactions with other medications, side effects, dosage levels, how often to take the medication and how long you should take it.

What can you do if you suffer an error?

If you catch a mistake, contact the pharmacy and your doctor immediately. If you have already taken the medication, visit the doctor for an evaluation, and make sure that there have been no adverse side effects. Hang onto the prescription in case you suffer harm from the pharmacist’s mistake. If you experience injury or illness, consider contacting an attorney who may be able to help you gain compensation and the resources you need to recover.

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Hartelius, Durocher & Winter, PC Channing Hartelius, Roland Durocher, Jeff Winter

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