The high number of prescriptions filled daily by pharmacists can result in negligent and reckless mistakes. A misfiled prescription has the potential to be deadly. Recent television programs have featured stories on misfiled prescriptions and many patients have discovered that the pill in the container is not what was ordered. As a result these errors are responsible for severe injuries and death to individuals who rely on their pharmacist to ensure the medication they receive is the same as the one their physician prescribed.
Pharmacy experts say a big part of the problem is a shortage of pharmacists. “Right now, the number of pharmacists is growing about 1-2 percent a year and the amount of work that each pharmacy is doing is increasing,” says Pharmacist Dave DePersio at Vanderbilt Medical Center1. The frequency in which physicians change out generic and brand name prescriptions is also a contributing factor, as a common drug may have multiple names.
In a study of 500 pharmacist malpractice claims conducted by Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Company, the following types of errors were identified: Wrong Drug Dispensed 52%, Wrong Strength Dispensed 27%, Wrong Directions Given 7.4%, for a total of 86.4% of errors that could have been prevented.
A Pharmacy Today survey (published December 15, 1996) asked, “What could cause dispensing errors?” Of 187 responses from 171 pharmacists and 16 pharmacy paraprofessionals, insufficient filling time and too many distractions were identified as two of the major areas of concern. Ringing telephones and customer questions unrelated to medication were frequent sources of interruption.
Unrealistic workload requirements, inadequate technician assistance, and a non supportive system (with no provision for one person to check the work of another) were also identified as factors that can increase the rate of error. In short, many dispensing errors are caused by stress, distraction, or lack of backup.
Hospital Medications Errors
According to data from a 1999 study funded by the Institute of Medicine medical errors in hospitals cause between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year. A report from a healthcare quality ratings company hat was conducted in 2004, determined that from 2002 through 2002 an approximate 195,000 hospital patients died each year as a result of medication errors. Medication slip-ups are a common occurrence in hospitals across the United States.
Why Hospital Medication Errors Occur
- Patients given medications at wrong time.
- Patients given wrong dosages.
- Patients given wrong medications.
- Patients do not receive medications at all.
- Illegible prescriptions