We place a level of trust in pharmacists that we rarely show to other health care providers. It is not uncommon for patients to question their doctors’ diagnoses and medical advice or to seek two or more opinions from other physicians and hospitals. Yet, when we walk into a pharmacy, present our prescriptions and obtain our medications we hardly ever give the process a second thought.
Nevertheless, thousands of medication errors are committed by pharmacists each year, some with disastrous consequences. The rate of mistakes made in filling prescriptions may be as high as 10%. In our nation’s hospitals, more than 2.2 million patients suffer adverse drug reactions annually, resulting in 106,000 deaths. Experts estimate that two-thirds of the injuries and fatalities caused by medication errors could have been prevented.
The Role of the Pharmacist
A pharmacist is a health care professional who compounds and dispenses medications and who advises and instructs people as to the proper use of those medications. The days of the pharmacist as chemist, mixing his potions and powders, are nearly past. Today, much of the work of compounding medications is done by drug manufacturers or compounding pharmacies. Pharmacists do reconstitute medications, such as by adding syrup to antibiotics to make the medicine more easily ingested by children. Occasionally, mistakes occur because the pharmacist has contaminated the medication or used the wrong solution to reconstitute it. In general, however, the most common medication errors caused by pharmacists are:
- Wrong Medication
- Wrong Dosage
- Mislabeling of Medication
- Improper Warnings or Instructions for Use
- Wrong Combination of Drugs
- Nonbodily Injury, such as Breach of Confidentiality.
Room for Error
With a staggering 12 million chemical substances now available to pharmaceutical companies, the drug industry is booming, But as the volume of drug manufacturing increases, so does the potential for danger. Pharmacists are under a great deal of pressure to fill prescriptions quickly while keeping abreast of new and complex product information. Under these conditions, mistakes that should have been preventable become inevitable. Not surprisingly, pharmacists are increasingly being targeted for negligence lawsuits.
Over the next few months, the Orlow firm will post a series of articles on pharmacy negligence. We strongly believe in keeping our clients informed and aware of legal issues that may affect their daily lives. Please check our website for further articles and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you might have about medication errors.