Prescription Drug Errors

Prescription drug errors happen daily. They have serious health consequences and can ultimately be fatal. These errors are preventable, but why they happen will surprise you.

Many pharmacies now use call centers to handle your prescriptions. Not too long ago, when a patient went to their doctor a prescription would be written on a piece of paper. The doctor’s office would call the local pharmacist and give them the prescription information over the telephone or the patient would deliver the prescription directly to the pharmacist. If the pharmacist had any questions about the prescription, they would call the doctor’s office or speak directly to the patient. In addition, doctor’s offices would frequently give the patient samples of the medication in a sealed, labeled package.

Today, the system is drastically different. When a doctor calls a prescription into the pharmacy, they do not actually speak to a pharmacist. Instead, the doctor is required to call an 800 number. The doctor speaks to a person in a cubicle, in a call center in an office park located in a large city. Imagine a telemarketing call center. The call center is staffed by a person know as a Specialist Central Utility. All that is required by one large pharmacy is “High School diploma or general education degree (GED); or one to three months related experience and/or training . . .” No training in pharmaceuticals. No experience in the pharmaceutical industry. No experience in medical transcription or coding.

The Specialist Central Utility at the call center takes the prescription information over the phone and enters it into a computer terminal. The prescription information is then sent to a pharmacy technician in your local store. There, a Pharmacy Technician, takes the prescription information. All that is required to be a Pharmacy Technician is that you be 18 years of age. No training. No background in pharmaceuticals. The prescription is then filled by a pharmacist or a technician under the supervision of the on duty pharmacist.

Unfortunately, there is no direct doctor to pharmacist communication to verify the prescription ordered is the prescription filled. The pharmacist does not have the benefit of the doctor’s insight into the patient’s condition. Often, pharmacists have little or no information about a patient’s medical history.

What you can do to protect yourself.

  • Have your doctor describe what the medicine you are being given should look like.
  • Check the label to make sure the bottle is labeled with the same medicine that you were prescribed.
  • Check the name on the bottle and make sure it precisely and exactly matches yours.
  • Check the prescribing doctor’s name on the label and make sure it is your doctor.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by a prescription drug error, please contact us to see if we can be of any help.

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