Preventing a pharmacist’s mistake from injuring you or loved ones

Yesterday, our Chicago medical malpractice law blog discussed the common types of medication errors that are made by healthcare professionals in Illinois and throughout the entire nation. Despite the fact that these mistakes can cause patients to suffer serious health complications or death, thesemedication errors are not as uncommon as they should be.

In a recent story covered by ABC News, the director of the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research said that the many ways to fill prescriptions can easily contribute to mistakes being made by pharmacists. Fortunately, when it comes to pharmacy errors, patients in Chicago and nationwide may be able to take some control when it comes to preventing these mistakes from resulting in injury or death.

Errors are commonly made by pharmacists because there are many drug names that look and sound alike. A doctor’s handwriting could be tough for a pharmacist to read, resulting in filling the prescription incorrectly. And a pharmacist could make a mistake when substituting a drug for its generic version. Additionally, these mistakes are often hard to track because pharmacies are not required by federal laws to report errors, even if a mistake causes a patient to become seriously or fatally injured.

In one case, a 16-year-old male patient received a prescription medication from a pharmacy that was intended for someone else who shared his same name. The drug turned out to be one for chemotherapy, but he was supposed to receive a pain medication instead. The pharmacy alerted the teen days after the incident, but he had already consumed 17 of the wrong pills. Fortunately, he had only suffered high blood pressure from the mistake when the drug could have caused more serious health complications such as sterility.

Although double checking prescriptions should be performed by pharmacists, patients can also reduce the risk of receiving and taking the wrong medication.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, patients should make sure that their doctor’s handwriting is clear and legible. Patients should also make sure that the medicine received from the pharmacy is the same as the prescribed medication and that the correct name of the patient is on the label. Patients should also be aware of the correct way to take the medication and pharmacists should always be available to answer all questions regarding side effects.

Source: ABC News, “Pharmacy Error: Swallowing the Wrong Pill,” Lara Salahi, Nov. 23 2011

Medication Errors


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