The New York Times has published a shocking report on the rise of pharmacy negligence, in particular dispensing the wrong medications to the wrong patients. Pharmacists themselves have complained that these mix-ups are unsurprising given the stress that they are under.
Corporate Performance Metrics to Blame
As reported in the Times, today’s pharmacists perform countless duties—counseling patients, calling insurers and doctors, administering flu shots, working the register, and also filling prescriptions. Given the pressure pharmacists are under, the number of medication errors is unsurprising.
The examples offered by the Times are scary:
- An 85-year-old woman was given a powerful chemotherapy drug instead of an antidepressant that she had a prescription for.
- A teenage girl received blood pressure medication instead of pills for her asthma.
- A 47-year-old man received estrogen pills instead of the prescribed antidepressant.
Pharmacists lay the blame on corporate performance metrics that require doing too much work too fast. Some pharmacists are required to fill almost one prescription every 80 seconds, which can contribute to errors.
Large pharmaceutical chains have also pared support staff to the bone, leaving those in the pharmacy to pick up the slack. One pharmacist reported “I am a danger to the public” to the Texas Board of Pharmacy as part of a plea for the Board to help. Many of the nation’s largest chains have been implicated, including CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, and Walgreens.
States Are Not Stepping Up to the Plate
The large corporations have adopted some dangerous practices, all as part of a drive to increase profits. For example, CVS routinely provides three months of prescriptions to patients. But some mental health patients should only receive a limited amount. If they receive too many pills, they could try to kill themselves by overdosing.
For their part, many pharmacy chains claim they are addressing problems. But pharmacists mentioned in the Times story believe that they are being left out to dry by their state’s pharmacy boards, which are often staffed with employees from some of the nation’s largest chains. State boards often tell pharmacists to go public with complaints or to quit their jobs, neither of which would really protect patient health. No state to date has taken realistic steps to address the problems in our pharmacies.
Medication Errors Kill
It is unclear how widespread the problem is. The last major study on prescription drug errors was performed almost 15 years ago. A 2006 study found that around 1.5 million Americans were harmed by prescription drug mix-ups, some fatally.
If you have been injured, please contact Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein today. We have helped injured people and their families get the compensation they need when a pharmacist error has caused them pain. Call 305-371-2692 to schedule a free consultation.