Every year, pharmacies in the United States dispense more than 4 billion prescription medications. Of those, more than 170 million are dispensed in Pennsylvania. While most are filled and dispensed by pharmacies just as the doctor intended, it’s estimated that 1.3 million Americans are injured by medication errors every year, with up to 9,000 dying.
When we take a prescription drug, we expect it will benefit our health somehow. When a pharmacy makes an error, the results can be life-altering. There are several ways in which a retail pharmacy can make an error, such as:
While pharmacy employees commit some errors, some are committed by the doctors who prescribe the medication. Pharmacy employees are responsible for ensuring that prescriptions are given to patients as prescribed without mistakes. Still, pharmacists are also responsible for catching and correcting the errors of others. If a pharmacy should have known that a medication was unsafe as prescribed, it shares responsibility for any injury or death that occurs.
Many things make pharmacy staff prone to committing errors, but one of the biggest is the number of distractions that pharmacists and technicians face. Nearly 75 percent of medication errors have been attributed to distractions, and you can see it for yourself while waiting in line at the pharmacy counter. The pharmacist’s attention is pulled to the counter to explain a new medication, to the phone to speak with a doctor, to a technician’s computer to look at an insurance problem, and to the shopper who pulls the pharmacist aside because they need to know where they can find the bread. With only one pharmacist on duty, as is the case in many pharmacies, errors are almost inevitable.
Heavy workload is another serious issue. Staff shortages are common in Pennsylvania pharmacies and nationwide, but the work keeps increasing. Filling prescriptions, performing health testing, and giving vaccines are all a part of the pharmacist’s job, and trying to do more work with less help is a safety issue in and of itself.
Drug names are often similar and easily confused, such as hydralazine (for blood pressure) and hydroxyzine (for itching or anxiety). Directions can also be a source of errors, and prescription abbreviations, called "sig codes," are often confused. For example, "1 qd" would appear on your prescription bottle as "take one tablet by mouth daily." The "1 qid" abbreviation would be "take one tablet by mouth four times daily."
Large pharmacy chains are also contributing to the problem, as surveys of pharmacists nationwide have shown. According to 60 percent of pharmacists surveyed, the corporate emphasis on speed and profits is perceived as more important than patient safety. For example, one pharmacist sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy in February of 2019: "The amount of busywork we must do while verifying prescriptions is absolutely dangerous. Mistakes are going to be made, and the patients are going to be the ones suffering."
Determining how and why a medication error occurred is challenging. That’s why finding a legal team specializing in medication errors and medical malpractice is essential if you believe negligence played a part in your situation. If a pharmacy contributed to a medication error, it should be held responsible for whatever harm resulted.
The lawyers and Ivy League-trained doctors at Ross Feller Casey have extensive experience handling medical malpractice cases, such as the $12.95 million we recovered for the family of a victim who died due to a medication error. We believe that pharmacies should be held accountable when their unsafe working environment puts the lives of their patients at risk.
If you or your loved one was injured or died due to a medication error, contact us today for a free consultation. We handle all our cases on a contingency basis. That means there's no fee unless you win your case. We're ready to put our experience to work for you and help you get the compensation you and your family deserve.
Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.