A woman in Lake Tawakoni tells of how, instead of taking the pain medication Gabapentin, she ended up taking Gemfibrozil, a cholesterol medication. All this happened because her pharmacist attached the wrong label to her medicine bottle (even though the bottle had the correct manufacturer’s label).
Unfortunately, her story isn’t unique. Prescribing errors like this one happen on a daily basis all over the world, and the US is no exception. Such mix-ups are examples of medical mistakes which, according to a Johns Hopkins’ study, are responsible for 250,000-plus deaths in the US every single year.
Pharmacy, like all health sciences, is a specialty that has an active role in preserving, enhancing, and protecting human health. However, the truth is that pharmacists have often made mistakes when writing or dispensing medicine.
When this happens, they jeopardize the health of those under their care.
Pharmacy errors can be as simple as giving a tablet of the wrong strength, or be so serious that they potentially have lethal consequences. The worst part? Most if not all pharmacy errors are preventable. Knowing how and why these errors occur is crucial in preventing them from happening.
Types of Florida Pharmacy Errors
A pharmacist or pharmacy technician can potentially make all kinds of mistakes:
- Being irrational, ineffective, or inappropriate in their prescribing – including over- and under-prescribing
- Dispensing medications by giving the wrong drug, dose, or formulation, as well as misleading packaging and putting on the wrong labels
- Instituting and monitoring therapy by giving the wrong dose, using the wrong route of drug administration, wrong duration, wrong frequency, wrong patient instructions, erroneous therapy alteration, or failing to modify therapy when necessary
The errors above constitute a form of medical malpractice called pharmacy negligence. If your pharmacy has been negligent towards you, you are entitled to compensation for any damages, expenses, or injuries that might ensue.
Causes of Pharmacy Errors in Florida
Why do pharmacists make those types of mistakes? The major causative factors for pharmacy errors in Florida are:
- Understaffing. When a pharmacy is understaffed, its employees are often rushed when attending the customers who come in to buy medicine. Errors tend to occur when pharmacists are rushed.
- Overworking and Exhaustion. Some pharmacies have a minimum number of scripts they expect each pharmacist to write per hour or per day. Other pharmacies have their pharmacists working for unreasonably long shifts. This may inadvertently lead to exhaustion. Errors tend to occur when pharmacists are exhausted.
- Over-reliance on Automation. Such technologies as express prescriptions and computer-generated refills are used to speed up processes. However, they need to be manned by a competent pharmacist to prevent errors.
- Poor Supervision and Double Checking. Pharmacists and their supervisors should keep a close eye on pharmacy technicians. Thorough double checking should also be exercised to pick out any mistakes that might have occurred during prescribing, dispensing, and packaging medications.
- Communication Breakdown Between Doctors and Pharmacists. Pharmacy errors may occur when communications are lacking between pharmacists and doctors. Communication may break down due to such issues as illegible handwriting, misinterpretation of prescriptions, and the existence of similar drug names.
- Distraction. Physical distractions from colleagues, customers, too many telephone calls, and so on may make the pharmacist lose concentration, which can lead to medication errors. Emotional distractions such as sorrow and depression may throw a pharmacist into a bad head space, which causes them to make mistakes.
- Patient Misidentification. Sometimes errors occur because the pharmacist was looking at a prescription meant for a different patient.
- Picking the Next Drug on the Shelf. Sometimes when a pharmacist reaches out to pick a drug, they may unknowingly pick the drug next to the one they intended to pick.
Florida has set standards by which a pharmacist’s work can be assessed and judged. Structures exist to ensure that negligent pharmacists are punished and held accountable for their mistakes. This is in bid to improve patient safety by minimizing the occurrence of pharmacy errors, but holding pharmacists accountable through legal claims is also vital in reducing mistakes.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.