Medications are life-saving, but only when used correctly. Sadly, over 7,000 people die annually due to medication errors, according to the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), and some of these mistakes are occurring before the patient even receives their prescription from the pharmacy.
Dispensing Errors Cause Unnecessary Harm
Pharmacists are not doctors, but their role when it comes to a patient’s health outcome can be just as critical. Medication errors are among the most common causes of injuries and death in the medical field, with dispensing errors accounting for approximately 21% of these incidents according to Pharmacy Times.
Dispensing errors as defined by NCBI are discrepancies between what the patient was prescribed and what medication and instructions are delivered. Pharmacists can make a number of dispensing errors in the course of their job, including:
- Dispensing the wrong dosage
- Dispensing the wrong medication
- Dispensing the wrong medication strength
- Dispensing at the wrong time
- Dispensing the wrong quantity
- Failing to dispense
- Dispensing medication of inferior quality
- Dispensing medication with the wrong information on the label
- Dispensing for the wrong patient
When pharmacists make any one of these errors, patients can become severely ill or injured. Patients may not only see zero change in the condition they were originally being medicated for, but they could also experience adverse reactions to the medication errors, some proving to have fatal consequences.
What Causes Dispensing Errors?
Pharmacies can be stressful environments, especially as the demands for medications continue to increase. NCBI reports these as the most common reasons for dispensing errors in pharmacies across the country:
- high volume workloads
- short staffing
- fatigued employees
- time constraints
- look-alike/sound-alike medicines
Additional causes found in various studies on dispensing errors blame unreadable handwriting, lack of effective controls, lack of concentration on the job, lack of organization, and talkative customers for pharmacy mistakes. Furthermore, these studies also highlighted a lack of systems present to detect dispensing errors, allowing incorrect prescriptions to flow right out the door without a second look or fail-safe policy.
How To Prevent Dispensing Errors
It is the responsibility of a pharmacist to dispense the correct medication to patients using accurate information and doctor’s recommendations. However, pharmacists are only human and errors are bound to occur eventually. To help prevent these harmful mistakes, Pharmacy Times recommends pharmacies apply these strategies to reduce the number of errors when dispensing medications:
- Ensure all prescriptions are entered correctly.
- Confirm prescriptions are complete.
- Watch for look-alike, sound-alike drug names.
- Be mindful of zeros and abbreviations.
- Organize your workstation and office.
- Reduce distractions when working.
- Reduce unnecessary stress.
- Balance heavy workloads.
- Store drugs properly.
- Carefully check all prescriptions.
- Always provide patient counseling.
Patients can also help prevent pharmacy errors by doing their own due diligence before taking prescribed medications:
- Always read the script your doctor gives you before it is filled.
- Make sure you understand the type/dosage you will be taking and why.
- Double check the information on the bottle and bag to make sure you have the same medication your do doctor prescribed.
- Confirm your personal information to avoid a patient mix-up.
- If you have any questions, always ask to consult with the pharmacist before you leave, even if they appear busy or annoyed at your request- it could save your life.
Victims of Pharmacy Malpractice
When a pharmacy makes a dispensing error with your prescription, what do you do? It’s not always clear as to where the mistake was initially made when it comes to determining liability for injuries and fatalities due to medication errors. However, if you suspect you could be a victim of pharmacy malpractice, here are the first steps to follow:
- Seek medical attention immediately for adverse reactions.
- Call the pharmacy to report the dispensing error.
- Save the medication, bag, receipt, and bottle.
- Call an experienced pharmacy malpractice attorney.
Medication errors cause unnecessary harm to patients every day. If your health was jeopardized by negligent medication dispensing practices, contact our winning team at the law firm of Siler & Ingber to seek justice for your injuries today.