irst article in this series discussed drug errors that can occur when two medications have similar names. Whether the names sound close to one another or have similar spellings, this kind of medicine mix-up can have deadly results. This confusion is not limited to medicines that have similar names. It can also happen when a doctor, hospital employee, or pharmacist confuses two different patients.
Philly.com details a story of a pharmacy’s medicine mistake. In 2011, a pregnant Mareena Silva was prescribed an antibiotic to treat an infection. When she picked up her medication, she received another person’s medicine from the pharmacist. Rather than the antibiotic she was supposed to take, Mareena was given methotrexate, a drug that inhibits cell growth. Methotrexate is used to treat certain cancers and other conditions, but absolutely should not be given to pregnant women as it can cause birth defects or miscarriage. An investigation uncovered the pharmacist made a mistake; Mareena Silva was given Maria Silva’s prescription. There were no follow up reports on how Mareena or her baby fared after the drug mistake.
People with common last names are more at risk of this kind of medication error. Because confusing two patients is a fairly common hospital medicine mistake as well as a frequent pharmacy drug error, staff members are often trained to ask for more information than just a name. Pharmacy customers may be asked to verify their addresses or dates of birth. In hospitals, staff members may double check the information on a patient’s identification bracelet to avoid giving the wrong medicine to the wrong patient.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself against this kind of medication mistake. First, slow down. If you are in a hurry when picking up your medication, you are less likely to catch a pharmacy’s drug error. Double check that the name on the medication is yours while the pharmacist is present. In a hospital situation, ask staff members questions about the medicine you are receiving. Make sure employees verify the information on the medicine and the information on your hospital band match.