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Beware Prescription Errors by Pharmacies

Whether to lower blood pressure, help manage diabetes or to stop infection, many Americans depend on medications to provide necessary medical care. The continuing reliance many people place on their medication has led to incredible amounts of prescription drugs in the marketplace, but has also increased the risk of medication errors due to improperly filled prescriptions.

For example, the IMS, a pharmaceutical market intelligence firm, listed the top 10 most prescribed drugs in 2010. The leader was Hydrocodone, which was prescribed 131.2 million times in 2010. The 10th, Hydrochlorothiazide, was prescribed 47.8 million times. A study by the Journal of American Pharmacists Association noted that there are four prescription errors for every 250 prescriptions filled, meaning that potentially millions of prescriptions are incorrect in some form.

While the majority of prescription errors are harmless, some are severe enough to harm the patient. For example, a person on a simple high blood pressure medication who is otherwise healthy should not stop taking the medication. If he or she mistakenly stops taking that medication, he or she could pass out or get dizzy - increasing the likelihood of accidents and health problems. Patients who mistakenly take medication other than what is prescribed to them can suffer much more severe injuries, including death.

Aging populations are often at risk of prescription errors, especially in nursing homes. For example, the Bay Citizen reported that the California Department of Public Health investigated 32 nursing homes in California and discovered that pharmacists in 18 of the nursing homes failed to properly red flag inappropriate medications or combinations of medications. In addition, as the elderly generally take more medication than younger populations and can be in poorer health, mistakes in medication for elderly patients may be more likely to have severe unintended consequences than other age groups.

Follow these tips in order to reduce the chances of medication errors caused by pharmacy negligence:

  • Look at the pills: if they are different in shape or color than your usual medication, ask the pharmacist why
  • Know the reason(s) for the different medications you take
  • If you are experiencing unanticipated side effects, talk to your medical professional
  • If you believe you took the wrong medication, call a poison control center

Unfortunately, victims of medical malpractice can occasionally suffer serious harm because of the negligence of a medical provider. If you believe a pharmacist mistakenly provided you or a loved one with the incorrect medicine or incorrect dosage, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your options.


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