Nursing Home Pharmacy Errors Linked to Illegal Kickbacks

Investigation by the California Department of Public Health uncovered numerous pharmacy errors made in nursing homes. During the course of the probe, officials found one woman with a history of seizures was being given two drugs that are known to increase the risk of epileptic events. She was also prescribed two different antipsychotic medications, which combined put her in danger of irregular heartbeats.

According to the New York Times, 18 of the 32 investigations conducted between May 2010 and June 2011 uncovered incidents where pharmacists failed to note when patients were
prescribed the wrong drug. In other cases, pharmacists failed to note when patients were
given the wrong dose. Furthermore, in 90 percent of cases, pharmacists failed to identify the
nursing home abuse of antipsychotic drugs.

Investigators suggested that the pharmacy mistakes could be linked to the fact that
nursing homes involved are paying the pharmacy companies less than the cost of providing the services. On average, a California pharmacist makes $56 an hour. Nursing home records indicate some of the pharmacists making the “mistakes” were making as little as $11 an hour.

It appears the pharmacy companies are willing to provide the pharmacy review service below cost to get their foot in the door at the nursing home. Once the company is providing the review services at the nursing home, its pharmacists can provide residents with profitable drug products supplied by the company and bill Medicare, Medicaid, and other payers a profitable rate for these other services. In fact, in November of 2009 Omnicare, the nation’s largest long term care pharmacy provider agreed to pay $98 million to the federal government to settle allegations of overcharging for these other services after providing the review services at below cost.


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