Is a 22% Error Rate in Prescription Medication Acceptable?

20/20 did an undercover investigation of pharmacies at America’s big chain stores like Walgreens.They found that there were errors in filling prescriptions in more than one in five cases. They talked about how

Overworked pharmacist are pushed to fill prescriptions at a fast food pace

How many mistakes are made? No one knows,

because except for 4 states, drugstores are not required to report the mistakes they make. Even in cases of serious injuries or death.

Here’s part of the interview between ABC’s Chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross and Mary Ann Wagner R. Ph, Senior Vice President, Policy and Pharmacy Regulatory Affairs of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores

ABC’s Brian Ross: Shouldn’t it (the pharmacy’s mistakes) be publicized?

Mary Ann Wagner: I don’t so. I don’t think it should be publicized.

later she claims

Patient safety is our number one concern

ABC’s Brian Ross: But you don’t even keep track of errors?

Mary Ann Wagner: No, no we don’t keep track of them.

ABC’s Brian Ross: So how can say this industry is taking serious steps to prevent errors if they don’t know how big the problem is?

Mary Ann Wagner: I don’t but i can tell you that the chains consider one error too many.

ABC’s Brian Ross: But they don’t know how many there are. There could be one, a million, ten million. do you have any idea?

Mary Ann Wagner: I don’t have any idea how many there are.

Yes, I see how apparent it’s your number one concern. Not.

Despite federal and state laws that require pharmacists to provide counseling to customers picking up new medications, patient counseling was only offered in 27 out of 100 purchases of new prescriptions, less than a third, in the ABC-Auburn Study.”

Particularly alarming to the Auburn experts was the chain pharmacies’ failure to warn patients of potentially harmful interactions when they purchased certain over-the-counter medications, such as adult strength aspirin with Coumadin, a blood thinner. In only eight cases out of 25 were the customers given a verbal warning.

Finally, the study revealed that some pharmacies appear to be misleading customers into signing away their right to patient counseling.

Sounds like more government regulation is required. I wonder if Canadian pharmacies are required by law to report mistakes? Are we doing better or worse than the US in tracking and reporting errors? In committing them? This should be mandatory in all jurisdictions, if there’s no reporting how do we know if there are common problems? You can’t fix what you’re unaware of.

If, as Mary Ann Wagner claimed, patient safety was truly the big drugstore’s number one concern, at the barest of minimums they would track when their patient’s safety was being compromised.

I’ve been lucky so far, haven’t had a problem with my local pharmacies. But after watching that report, especially the part about 16 year olds counting out pills, and filling out the forms, I’m definitely going to be more vigilant.

Ross received the 2007 Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting for a two-part “20/20” undercover investigation into retail pharmacy errors,

ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross will take home the Murrow Award for “Prescription for Disaster,” a look into how major pharmacy chains allegedly cut corners in order to increase profits. In the process, pharmacies sometimes give people the wrong medications or dosages, which can result in severe medical problems or even death.

“We found in many states, people with virtually no training are putting pills in bottles, and while a pharmacist is there, they are put under strict quotas to be efficient,” said Mr. Ross. “Even more telling was that a big chain like Walgreen’s doesn’t keep track, so it’s hard to fix the problem if you don’t know the nature of it or have any documentation. We felt this impacted every single person in the country, and that it is important to know what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Have you had prescription errors from pharmacies? If so how did the pharmacy handle it?

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