Pharmacy Errors More Common Than People Believe

Every day, patients around the developed world put their trust in pharmacists. These men and women have gone through years of schooling and training and know more about medications we take than we do. There are set procedures they follow when preparing prescription medications and safeguards to protect against mistakes. Pharmacists also use powerful computer programs to ensure patients are not given the wrong medicines. For all of these reasons, most people feel little concern when they drop off a prescription to be filled and they feel confident when taking their drugs that there have been no pharmacy errors.

An investigation by News Channel 5 indicates that pharmacy medicine mistakes are far more common than people are lead to believe. Florida state data shows that in the last five years only 130 of the 40,000 licensed pharmacists have been disciplined for a medication error. However, the state of Florida does not require a pharmacy to report an error. Dr. Carsten Evans is a professor at Nova Southeastern University and head of one of the nation’s two remediation programs designed to help pharmacists understand their errors. She explains, “Unless there’s a death, [the error] stops there.” Fearing consequences, most pharmacists do not report their mistakes, making pharmacy medication errors a severely under-reported problem. Since it is under-reported, most people do not know about it and it is not being addressed properly.

There is only one federally recognized program in the United States dedicated solely to preventing drug errors, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Executive Director Michael Cohen cites company quotas as one of the main sources of pharmacy mistakes. Quotas require pharmacists to fill a certain number of prescriptions per hour. This can cause them to rush and lead to mistakes. Ultimately, Cohen argues that is is important to “look more at reporting these nationally and fixing the problem. There needs to be that safety oversight to make sure people are doing what they’re supposed to do and to make sure procedures are in place.”


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