Despite our wishing that medical professionals could be held to a zero-error standard, the reality is that everyone makes mistakes. Although pharmacies have procedures in place to reduce slip-ups, errors still occur – and some are deadly. The mounting demand for prescription drugs is outpacing the number of people choosing to become pharmacists, which often means that those in the field encounter lots of pressure to work as long and as fast as they can.
A study published last year in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy examined almost two million medication orders over a one-year period to gain more insight into pharmacy mistakes. Looking at workload, environment, and the number of pharmacists working each shift, the researchers found a rate of 4.87 errors per 100,000 verified orders. The error rate was higher during the week than on the weekend, higher during the evening shift than the day or night shifts, and higher when there were more orders to verify. The error rate was 2.58 errors per 100 shifts when the number of orders verified per shift was between 100 to 200 orders, 8.44 when the number of verified orders was in the 201 to 400 range, and 11.11 when the number of verified orders surpassed 400. Thus, an increase in the number of orders verified by pharmacists per shift was linked to an increased rate of errors.
Drug errors stem from a wide range of causes:
- incorrect entry of the prescription
- misidentification of the patient
- second-guessing illegible prescriptions
- misplaced zeroes or decimal points
- incorrect abbreviations
- unlabeled drug containers
- working with more than one prescription at a time
- inadequate work space
- insufficient staffing
- expired medications
- failure to recheck
- failure to note potential drug interaction problems
- disregarding a patient’s allergies.
The study concluded that the two most common errors were filling a prescription with the wrong dose and filling a prescription with the wrong medication. The five drugs most commonly associated with an error event were:
- Pneumococcal vaccine (13 percent) for duplicate order
- Piperacillin-tazobactam 3.375-g vial (4 percent) for allergy or wrong dose
- Influenza virus vaccine (3 percent) for duplicate order
- Warfarin sodium 5-mg tablet (2 percent) for wrong dose
- Dexamethasone injection 4 mg/mL (2 percent) for wrong dose.
It is likely that you have taken one or more of these medications in your lifetime. Perhaps you experienced an error in filling your prescription for the pneumococcal vaccine, which is used to prevent some cases of pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis, or the influenza vaccine, which is used to protect against three strains of flu. Piperacillin-tazobactam (Zosyn) is a widely-used combination antibiotic; warfarin sodium (Coumadin) is a popular blood thinner; and dexamethasone combats many different inflammatory conditions. Many mistakes are caught in the nick of time during the federally required patient counseling that must be offered before the patient leaves the pharmacy.
If you think you may have been the victim of a pharmacy mistake, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the Georgia pharmacy error attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. We have over 50 years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Based in Macon, we believe that a mistake or omission that happens during medical treatment and leads to a patient’s injury is unacceptable. Contact us to discuss your unique situation by calling (478) 742-3381or by filling out our online form.