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How do pharmacy errors take place?

When you pick up your prescriptions at the pharmacy, how often do you carefully examine the pills? You may not even really be able to tell them apart—especially if the majority of them are white, generic substitutes for name brand drugs.

That's what makes it especially important that your pharmacist be on the ball and alert for errors with your medications

How do most prescription errors take place?

1.) Right pill, wrong dose

Your pharmacist may end up giving you the right pill, but the wrong dose. While that may not cause you any immediate harm if you get a lower dose of lodine, a common anti-inflammatory, than you normally do, getting a lower-than-needed dose of your heart medication or blood pressure medication could be fatal. Similarly, if you're on blood thinners or insulin, too large of a dose could send you into a coma.

2.) Right dose, wrong pill

Sometimes drug names can confuse even pharmacists, especially if they're being pushed to move faster by their pharmacy and they're dealing with a handwritten script. A pharmacist may misread clonazepam, an anti-anxiety medication, as clonidine, a blood pressure drug. Those are two of the most commonly confused drugs and the effects of mixing up one for the other can be deadly.

3.) Right drug, wrong patient

Some errors are as simple as mislabeling the bottle. If the pharmacist is distracted, or trying to fill too many orders at once, he or she could put the wrong label on a patient's bottle. Since so many pills look so much alike, the patient may not realize it until after he or she ingests some of the medication.

4.) Right drug, right patient, wrong instructions

Finally, the pharmacist may fail to warn a patient about significant side effects that can occur if the drug is not taken exactly as directed. For example, some drugs absolutely have to be taken with food or they can tear apart your stomach lining. Other drugs have to be taken before you eat anything, or they won't do anything at all.

Anyone who has been injured as a result of a pharmacy error should consider contacting an attorney to discuss the possibility of a case. Your pharmacist is a medical professional like any other. As such, he or she—and the pharmacy—can be held responsible for any significant damage that you've suffered as a result of a medication

Source: Consumer Reports, "What can I do if the pharmacy gives me the wrong drug?," Ginger Skinner, accessed Dec. 30, 2016

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