According to a 2014 Forbes article, every year approximately one million pharmacist errors occur, although the actual number is difficult to determine.
Currently, there are no standards for reporting pharmacist error and most of them go unmentioned until they result in a multi-patient issue or patient death. In an average year, approximately 7,000 patient deaths occur because of medication errors, many of which occur in the hands of a pharmacist. There are long-term damages that occur in medical malpractice claims and a pharmacist should be held responsible for them if s/he didn’t do her/his job.
Types of Pharmacist Error Malpractice
When a doctor writes a prescription either in a hospital or at the office, a pharmacist has to fill it. A lot of vital information can be lost in the translation of written prescription to the dosage given to the patient, which is why pharmacy errors are more common than you may think.
First, a pharmacist must identify the proper drug and form (pill, liquid) that the doctor has prescribed. Accurate identification can be extremely difficult to do for handwritten prescriptions, especially if the doctor scribbled the prescription in a hurry. Additionally, many medications have very similarly spelled names, and mistaking a single letter could lead to an entirely wrong drug being administered.
Next, the dosage must be determined and measured out. For most medications, the difference between 10.0 mg and 1.0 mg is astonishing, yet the only difference between the two doses is a single decimal point movement.
Pharmacists must also pay attention to the number of doses prepared if the medication will be handed to the patient for self-administration. If a patient was instructed to take all the medication given to them, but the pharmacist supplies them with more than the prescription called for, they could risk overdosing.
Finally, pharmacists must ensure that the medication is going to the correct patient and that there will be no conflicts with that patient's taking of the medication. A pharmacist should, to the best of their ability, cross-reference any other medications they know the patient is taking and ensure that the patient is not allergic to a prescribed medication.
While this is initially the responsibility of the doctor prescribing the medication, the pharmacist should do an additional check to be doubly sure there will be no conflict or allergic reaction.
Ways to Prevent Pharmacist Errors
One of the ways that hospitals and doctor's offices are helping reduce the occurrence of pharmacist errors is by using electronic prescription submissions. This eliminates most of the risk of misspelled or similarly spelled prescription names and mistakes in dosages.
Some of these programs, known as Computerized Prescription Order Entry (CPOE) programs, have built-in safety systems that catch unusually large doses that are known to be dangerous or deadly.
For patients taking medications, ask your doctor to explain the medication at the time it is prescribed so you know what to expect when you receive the drugs from the pharmacist.
Make sure you request to talk to the pharmacist before you begin taking the medication if you have questions regarding any of the following.
- The type of medication
- How to take the medication
- Side effects or interactions
Most pharmacist errors can be caught just by paying close attention that your prescription and the prescribed medication you are given match up.
What to Do if a Pharmacist Error Occurs
If you become ill from a pharmacist error or lose a loved one because of an improperly prescribed medication you will need to prove who was liable for the medication error. Besides the pharmacist, there are other parties such as the doctor that prescribed the medication and the nurse that administered the dosage that could also be liable. Before you start a claim against a pharmacist, you should talk to a medical malpractice attorney.
The Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. is here to help injured Georgia residents seek justice for medical malpractice errors that cause serious injury, suffering, and/or death of a loved one. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment for a FREE consultation regarding your legal options after a serious medication error: 404-474-0804.