Pharmacies Missing Many Potentially Fatal Drug Combinations
The Chicago Tribune published disturbing results from an investigation where reporters attempted to fill prescriptions that had known drug interactions with one another. On numerous occasions, the reports received prescriptions that would have combined to have serious and potentially deadly reactions, proving that there needs to be more oversight involved in the process of filling these scripts. When pharmacies allow errors like this to slip through their fingers, they may be held liable for failing to verify the prescriptions with patients’ doctors to make sure that they are safe when taken with one another.
More than Half of Pharmacies Tested Failed
In an effort to gather information from a substantial sample size, reporters selected 255 different pharmacies throughout Chicago to see whether pharmacists would detect the potential drug interactions. An example of a test was presenting prescriptions for two medications that were completely safe on their own, but would cause the muscles to breakdown and for patients to suffer renal failure— which could lead to death.
52% of the pharmacies filled the prescriptions and CVS had the worst report card with a 63% failure rate during the study. The pharmacy chain that performed best was Walgreens, but 30% of its locations still failed the test. After the paper contacted the companies, they all vowed to take steps to provide better training to their employees and implement more effective screening processes.
Number of Prescriptions are Skyrocketing in the United States
More people than ever are taking multiple medications for chronic conditions and pharmacies are dispensing them at record rates. 10% of the population is taking five or more medications and while doctors form a first line of defense, it is the pharmacist who is often the last line of defense for patients who are being provided with the wrong medications, either due to dosage or potential drug interactions. Tens of thousands of people suffer from drug interactions each year that are severe enough to require hospitalization and this is discounting the many minor interactions that result in the cessation of use.
Among the discoveries that were made during this study, reporters learned that the laws in place to protect consumers were often ignored, technology that was meant to provide warnings of potential problems was not being used and haste contributed to many of the errors. Employees that were pushed to fill prescriptions quickly in order to provide convenience were more likely to commit errors and provide reporters with the dangerous cocktails.
Pharmacists Must Contact Doctors Prior to Issuing Meds with Potential for Harm
Illinois law dictates that whenever there is a concern about a potential drug interaction, the pharmacist must contact the doctor who wrote the script in order to verify that it is correct and to discuss the potential adverse reactions with other medications. There are some instances where the doctor will realize that he or she wrote a prescription for the wrong medication, sent it in for the wrong patient or did not review the patient’s potential drug interactions.