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Under-staffing at pharmacies may lead to medication errors, danger to patients

Pharmacists juggle many important responsibilities, but some corporate owners demand more

A Texas pharmacist made an alarming admission in an anonymous letter to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy last year. The pharmacist wrote, “I am a danger to the public working for CVS.”

The anonymous letter went on to explain that CVS imposes an “absolutely dangerous” amount of busy work that pharmacists are expected to do on top of their principal concern of verifying prescriptions.

If this problem isn’t isolated, but instead is chain-wide, the risk to patients is staggering. CVS fills and dispenses over 1 billion prescriptions annually, accounting for around 25% of the total prescription revenue for the United States.

The truth is that pharmacists are highly trained medication experts who have a critical role in ensuring patient safety when it comes to prescription drugs. Some of their responsibilities include:

• Receiving prescriptions from providers, noting the medication type, dosage, and instructions

• Checking new prescription drugs for potential interactions with other drugs that the patient has taken

• Looking out for contraindications for filling the new prescription

• Contacting the prescribing doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant if there’s any concern

• Providing mandatory counseling for new prescriptions

• Being available to answer patient questions

• Giving immunization shots to patients

On top of these patient-safety-focused tasks, many pharmacists claim that their employers require them to upsell patients to sign up for automatic refills, increase the number of pills dispensed, and get permission to contact prescribing providers to generate new refill requests. In other words, in some situations, pharmacists have felt the money crunch that requires them to take away time from patient safety and focus on profits.

As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I’ve handled many cases where there were pharmacy errors. The malpractice I’ve seen includes things like:

• Understaffing

Inadequate staff levels of pharmacists and pharmacy techs can lead to all kinds of mistakes.

• Filling and dispensing a prescription for the wrong medication or dosage

One client of Painter Law Firm had to call an ambulance because of heart-related symptoms that he experienced after a few days of taking a prescription drug refill. When he poured the pills out of the bottle, he noticed that some wrong pills were mixed in with the correct drug.

• Filling and dispensing a prescription that’s dangerous for a particular patient to take

Years ago, we represented the family of a deceased patient in a wrongful death medical malpractice case. A pharmacist dispensed and filled a new prescription for medication that the pharmacy’s own computer system warned was dangerous for this patient because of a drug-drug contraindication. She went to surgery and died of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which was the exact complication that the drug manufacturer and pharmacy computer system warned about.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured because of poor pharmacy services, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney for professional advice about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning 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 all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.

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