In 2009, nearly 4 billion prescriptions were dispensed in the United States, according to one study. With so many prescriptions being filled – and with pharmacists under pressure to quickly fill orders and move on to the next customer – errors are bound to occur. In fact, some research suggests that almost 40% of medications screened contained an error of some kind. Some of these mistakes may be noticed by the patient before ever taking the drug, but many are not. And the results can range from merely annoying to disastrous and even fatal.
How can pharmacy errors be prevented? One way is to carefully scrutinize mistakes that have already been made, and then change the system to decrease or eliminate the chances of that mistake happening again. Another, more technological approach involves the use of a drug-dispensing robot to avoid mistakes altogether. One such robot in San Francisco filled 350,000 prescriptions without a single error last month.
Preventing pharmacy errors would substantially reduce medical costs involved in the care and treatment of patients who are affected. These people are the victims of carelessness and an overburdened, error-prone system. While most people simply rely on the pharmacy and assume its employees are doing their jobs correctly, taking an active role in one’s health care can reduce the risk of pharmacy error. Here are some tips to help you keep yourself – and your family – safe:
- Don’t be in a hurry;
- Open your prescription in the pharmacy;
- Ask questions – by law pharmacists are required to provide counseling on all prescriptions they dispense;
- Don’t assume everything is alright;
- Be your own advocate or have someone you trust assist you; and
- Slow down, compare and take advantage of helpful resources such as the internet.
Pharmacy error is alarmingly common. Being patient and inquisitive can save your life.