Quality Care At Chain Pharmacies?
From 2011 to 2012 U.S. prescription sales totaled $326 billion according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Of that amount Tennesseans spent more than $6.1 billion filling more than 112 million prescriptions, easily making Tennessee one of the top States in the nation for number of prescriptions filled per capita, as well as spending per capita, at retail pharmacies. While the rising costs of prescription medication continues to be an issue for many residents who use and rely on commercial pharmacies for filling scripts, an even more alarming trend is beginning to emerge; pharmacy related-mistakes. Each year the Food and Drug Administration receives thousands of reports concerning pharmacy errors resulting from poor communication; misinterpreted handwriting; drug name confusion; confusing drug labels, labeling, and packaging; lack of employee knowledge; and/or lack of patient understanding about a drug’s directions. Sometimes the errors are harmless but many times those errors can cause serious injuries, or even death. Take, for example, the incident that occurred when a physician ordered a 260 milligram preparation of Taxol for a patient, but the pharmacist prepared 260 milligrams of Taxotere instead. Both are chemotherapy drugs used for different types of cancer with different recommended doses. Or the situation where a patient developed a fatal hemorrhage when given another patient’s prescription for the blood thinner warfarin. These, and other errors, are the result of a system that is already under immense pressure from the growing health care needs of Tennessee residents and their families, and now the coming Health Care Reform Act promises to escalate that pressure by increasing those demands, including the need to fill prescriptions.
It is more important than ever that anyone who has a prescription filled at a chain pharmacy know their rights and work to ensure that quality service is being delivered during each and every visit. For example, pharmacists have a mandate from the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy to make sure that the patient understands what medication they are receiving, why it is being prescribed, and how to properly take it. The pharmacist must provide personal counseling to the patient which should include the name and description of the medication, the dosage form and duration of the drug therapy, go over any special directions, and discuss common side effects. Choosing the right pharmacy, and pharmacist, is imperative to ensure that every individual’s personal needs are being met and that a relationship is being built to avoid mistakes.
While changes are already underway to improve safety measures in terms of pharmaceutical errors don’t allow yourself to be one of the nearly 1.3 million people that are injured each year because of simple pharmacy mistakes like improper medication dosage, placement of the wrong dosage instruction on a pill bottle, or simply issuing the wrong medication. Education campaigns and electronic health records may be helpful in the long run but they cannot replace personal attention and a constant dedication to quality care that a local pharmacy can ensure. There is already a shortage of pharmacists and pharmacist technicians in Tennessee and the coming Health Care Reform Act will only increase the strain on our system to provide these services safely and accurately. Be careful and know your rights when it comes to commercial pharmacy errors.