It’s not uncommon to go to your local pharmacy and pick up a prescription only to discover that you’ve received the wrong drug, or the wrong dosage, or even the wrong directions for use, and these errors can result in serious and life-threatening injuries.
In fact, a January 2020 investigative story published in the New York Times asserted that pharmacists across the country expressed frustration that understaffing and increased responsibilities by pharmacists has led to “chaotic workplaces” that make it “difficult to perform their jobs safely, putting the public at risk of medication errors.” In fact, a pharmacist writing anonymously in response to the journalistic investigation stated, “I am a danger to the public working for CVS.”
As the story laid out, pharmacies have become hotbeds of mistakes that put patient lives at risk. And, it shouldn’t be surprising when, as the article explained, pharmacists “…struggle to fill prescriptions, give flu shots, tend the drive-through, answer phones, work the register, counsel patients, and call doctors and insurance companies . . . all the while racing to meet corporate performance metrics that they characterized as unreasonable and unsafe.”
Another pharmacist in the article asserted it was virtually impossible to complete the amount of work that needs to be done by pharmacists at nationwide chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid without making some kind of mistake. Adding to the chaos, many corporate decisions like cutting down on staff, requiring pharmacists to complete more of the busywork that might be relegated to another pharmacy employee who don’t have the expertise to fill prescriptions, and truncating hours of service have exacerbated the problem.
More disturbing, a majority of states, including Michigan, do not require pharmacies to report errors, and there are no requirements for an investigation when a medication error does occur. Pharmacists and safety advocates imply that these points reflect a bigger issue: there is little being done about workplace conditions in pharmacies, and no meaningful attempts to change the safety of the workplace itself. Understaffing is among the leading worries. Pharmacists suggest that they would be able to do their jobs better, and with fewer medication mistakes, if understaffing were not a consistent problem.
Get the Facts About Medication Errors
Medication errors are a common type of medical error that can result in a patient injury and a medical malpractice claim. The following is information about medication mistakes from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
Medication errors are defined as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer.”
Many different healthcare providers can be responsible for medication errors, including physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, and even assistants entering drug information into an electronic system. Common types of medication mistakes include dispensing the wrong medication, dispensing the wrong amount of medication, and failing to consider patient allergies or drug interactions.