Have you ever been given the wrong prescription by a doctor or pharmacy?
According to a recent publication by Dr. Rayhan A. Tariq and Yevgeniya Scherbak, PharmD, 7000 to 9000 people die each year in the United States as a result of medication errors.
The publication estimates that the cost of looking after patients with medication-associated errors exceeds $40 billion a year. Medication errors are most common during the ordering or prescribing stages. Additionally, errors are also made during dispensing of the medication while at the pharmacy.
In a case I handled several years ago, the pharmacy misread the doctor’s handwriting and dispensed Navane, an anti-psychotic drug, instead of Norvasc, a blood pressure medication. Unfortunately, the client took the wrong medication for over thirty days, which resulted in a permanent condition known as tardive dyskinesia.
Common medication error issues involve the healthcare provider erroneously writing down the wrong medication on a script, including dose amount or frequency.
When I was young, small local pharmacies were the norm, not the exception. It was common for the pharmacist to make what I thought was “small talk” while he was filling the prescription. Usually the pharmacist would say something such as, “ear infections are painful.” I would reply, “I was up all night; I can’t even touch my ear.”
I didn’t realize at the time that what they were actually doing was confirming the correct prescription was being filled. That process is known as a Pharmacist Drug Review (PDR). PDR is actually mandated by law. Today, the large pharmacy chains satisfy this requirement by having you sign an electronic keypad, agreeing that the pharmacist has answered all of your questions, or that you were offered a consultation with the pharmacist and waived it. Most people just check that box without ever even reading what they are agreeing to.