If you have been the victim of pharmacy malpractice, you will need to have a personal injury attorney review your case. The pharmacist may not be the only one responsible. Gone are the days of small personally owned pharmacies. These are the days of superstore pharmacy chains and the volume of prescription refills has been increasing. With the additional number of prescriptions being filled and pharmacists under the same time constraints, prescription refill mistakes are becoming more prevalent. You may drop off a prescription refill for something very basic and leave with a prescription that you are allergic to. These types of pharmacy mistakes can lead to serious and permanent injuries. With millions of prescriptions being filled each year, the modernization of pharmacy chains means that instances of pharmacy malpractice should diminish. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. More than likely most Americans will deal with a pharmacy at some point in their life. It is important that consumers are aware of what constitutes pharmacy malpractice. Pharmacy malpractice occurs when a pharmacist or other trained pharmacy worker breaches the standard of care that is expected.Studies indicate that pharmacy misfills harm at least 1.5 million people per year with another 400,000 medication injuries occuring in hospitals. In addition to the risks associated with one recieving the incorrect medicine or dosage, the societal losses due to pharmacy misfills and pharmacy errors include the imposition of increased health care costs to all due to medicine being given that makes a recipient sicker not healthier, and in turn, results in more medical care.
Pharmacy malpractice can include:
- Placing the wrong prescription medication in the pill bottle
- Filling the prescription with the correct medication, but in the wrong dosage
- Mislabeling the medicine with the wrong instructions
- Providing someone else’s medicine to the customer
The cause of the pharmacy misfills, mistakes and errors is often that pharmacists are being required by their corporate employers to fill far too many prescriptions too quickly. Currently, the prevailing culture in pharmacies and drugstores require pharmacists to deliver a high quantity of prescriptions each hour, each day, each week and each year without regard to the quality of their work. The quantity of prescriptions filled is being stressed over quality of customer care. Pharmacists are asked to work long hours under grueling pressure causing mistakes to happen. And although many errors are minor, some of them can be extremely grave.
Monday is one of a pharmacies busiest days of the week. On this particular Monday, a South Carolina pharmacy was understaffed. The pharmacist handed a mother a pill bottle that was supposed to contain Ritalin, a medication to control her 8-year-old daughter’s hyperactivity. However, the pills inside were a diabetes drug, at 16 times the adult dosage. After taking the medication, the little child fell into a coma and suffered permanent brain damage. Investigators discovered that the pharmacist who made the mistake, was at the end of a 12-hour shift — and a 60-hour work week.
Statistics suggest that he’s not alone. Pharmacists are exhausted by the demands of a growing health-care industry are making errors while filling prescriptions. Many pharmacies require that pharmacists fill as many as 30 prescriptions hour. This gives them two minutes to fill a prescription, counsel the patient, and check for potential drug interactions. They are under incredible pressure to crank out prescriptions and mistakes are being made. The growing demand for presctiption drugs shoulders part of this burden. 20 years ago, Americans bought more than 2 billion prescriptions. According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), that number has grown to over 3 billion. In addition to the number of prescriptions filled, the paperwork for each prescription has increased and federal law requires pharmacists to counsel customers about their prescriptions.
The obvious solution is to add more pharmacists allowing them to work fewer hours and have adequate breaks. However, as the number of prescriptions being written has soared, the number of pharmacists to fill them has not. NACDS estimates that between 2004 and 2010 the number of pharmacists will increase by almost 8 percent however, prescription volume is expected to increase an estimated 27 percent.
To meet the increasing demand for prescription drugs, some pharmacies are turning duties over to pharmacy technicians, who often have little training and are paid only $6 to $12 an hour. In South Carolina technicians — who must always work under a pharmacist’s direction — are allowed to pull drugs off stock shelves and fill prescription bottles. They are allowed to enter prescriptions into the computer and call doctors to authorize prescription refills. Retail pharmacies used to be required to have one pharmacist for every one pharmacy technician on duty. This is no longer true. South Carolina allows two technicians for every pharmacist on duty.
In additiona to the time crunch pharmacists face, they have plenty of other challenges. They have to decipher the almost illegible handwriting of many doctors. (In one court case, a doctor’s orders were so sloppily written that they couldn’t be used as evidence!) They must also keep track of an every increasing number of new drugs with complicated and often similar sounding names — drugs like Cerebyx, Celexa, and Celebrex, each of which is prescribed to treat very different conditions. Studies show that one in every four medication errors is a name-confusion error.
With all of these pressures on the pharmacist, it is no wonder mistakes are being made. They are only human. However, you should not have to bear the burden alone if one of these mistakes effects your life or the life of a loved one. If you feel that you have been the victim of pharmacy malpractice, give the personal injury lawyers at Clekis Law Firm a call.