Two little-known ways to protect yourself from pharmacy errors
Pharmacist mistakes may happen more often than you think
I bet there’s not a month that goes by when someone doesn’t call Painter Law Firm to get help after being seriously injured from a drug error.
I had a case involving M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where the pharmacy dispensed a medication for the patient’s pain pump that was several times the dosage prescribed.
In another case, a woman died on the operating room table during her hysterectomy because her OB/GYN doctor wrote her a prescription for a drug that shouldn’t be taken while taking another medicine she had been prescribed. Even though the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the drug manufacturer had placed a warning of a dangerous drug-drug interaction, the CVS pharmacist didn’t say anything about it to the woman when filling the prescription.
Just recently, a California woman sued her OB/GYN physician and pharmacy, alleging that she lost her unborn baby after the doctor mistakenly prescribed an abortion pill and the pharmacist didn’t explain the drug to her before she took it. How sad!
How to stay safe with prescription drugs
If you think about the last time you entered a pharmacy, you probably remember that there’s a cashier line and a pickup and counseling line. The counseling area is where pharmacists can speak with patients to explain the medications that are being filled, any warnings, and expected side effects, and answer any questions.
Just from casually observing pharmacy lines over the years, it looks to me that most people don’t take advantage of pharmacy counseling. It only takes a minute or two, and I think it’s a mistake not to talk to the pharmacist.
This is particularly the case when you’re getting a new medication. That’s why, since 2014, in Texas, pharmacists are required to counsel new and existing patients with each new prescription drug that they fill.
It’s also important when you’re taking multiple medications or supplements. I recommend using the brief counseling time with the pharmacist to share the medications and supplements that you’re taking and to ask if there’s any risk that they may interact with the new prescription drug.
From handling many medical malpractice cases involving pharmacies, I’ve learned how pharmacy software works. It’s pretty impressive and is extra helpful in improving patient safety when patients use one pharmacy—or at least the same pharmacy chain. Let me explain why.
When filling a new prescription at a pharmacy, the software compares the new medication with all prior prescription drugs that have been filled at the same pharmacy or chain. The software looks for dangerous drugs-drug interactions and contraindications. If FDA or manufacturer recommendations prohibit the new drug with other drugs the patient is taking, the software will flag it, which should prevent the new prescription from being filled. If there’s a warning, the software will also flag it, so the pharmacist can speak with the prescribing physician or patient before filling the prescription.
If you fill prescriptions at multiple pharmacies that are within the same chain, you may sacrifice convenience for the safety of the pharmacy software. I don’t think that’s a good trade-off.
Even with robust pharmacy software, pharmacist mistakes still happen.
In cases that I’ve recently handled, pharmacists have ignored drug and software warnings, filling prescriptions that were either contraindicated or that required at least a call to the physician before proceeding.
In other cases, pharmacists and techs make a mistake in filling a prescription with the wrong drug or dosage.
If that happens to you or someone you care about, we are here to help. Click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.
All consultations are free, and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case. We handle cases in the Houston area and all over Texas. We are currently working on medical malpractice lawsuits in Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Conroe, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Bryan/College Station, and Waco.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2018, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. Also, in 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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