Pharmacy Errors

Errors with medications are not limited to the situation where the healthcare provider, either a doctor or nurse, errorneously administers the wrong doseage or wrong medication to a patient.  In fact, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, more than 7,000 deaths occur each year from incorrect prescriptions.  Another 1.5 million people are made sick or injured by drug errors. 

Even with stringent internal controls, a recent study published in the Internation Journal for Quality in Healthcare  that pharmacists nationally make 2.2 million dispensing errors each year.  This translates into an estimated 5.7 errors per 10,000 prescriptions. 

According to the study, pharmacists believe that consumers who pick up their prescription medications at a drive up window may be trading off safety for convenience.  The extra distractions assiciated with the drive up window service is thought to increase prescription errors.

Pharmacists attribute prescription filling errors to a number of factors:

  • Unreadable prescriptions - doctors are notorious for terrible handwriting.  If a pharmacist cannot reach a doctor to confirm his prescription, it leaves the pharmacist in a bad position with a waiting customer.  One letter can make a difference in dispensing the correct drug and the incorrect one;
  • Distractions - it is not uncommon for a pharmacist to be attending to a customer on the phone, a drive up window customer and a customer at the counter at the same time;