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How Chaos at Chain Pharmacies Is Putting Patients at Risk

February 28th, 2020

The pharmacy industry is increasingly under pressure to cut costs. As the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) industry tries to commoditize drug products and decrease what pharmacists are paid, the real victims are the consumers who rely on the day-to-day expertise of those pharmacists.

Pharmacists not only fill prescriptions, but they offer a wealth of information and advice about medication side effects, disease prevention, nutrition, diabetes management and much more. Pharmacists have specialized training and must attend pharmacy school before passing both national and state licensing exams.

However, the current economic model disregards those specialties and only pays pharmacies the cost of the drug product plus a dispensing fee of $0-to-$1. Many pharmacists at companies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens have contributed to this unfortunate model for filling more prescriptions on tighter margins which have led to devastating effects.

In one situation, a teen girl was hospitalized after she took blood pressure medication instead of her prescribed asthma pills. After taking the blood pressure medication for nearly two days, she felt nauseous, dizzy, and suffered from pounding headaches. That’s when she realized the terrible mix-up; that CVS had given her medication labeled with someone else’s name for a different condition. After a trip to the emergency room, the teen girl did not suffer any lasting effects. However, not everyone involved in a medication mix-up is as lucky.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an increase in emergency room visits for medication mix-ups. Medication mix-ups sometime lead to harmful drug reactions, causing about 700,000 ER visits and 100,000 hospital admissions each year. Statistics also show that the most vulnerable age group tends to be people over the age of 65. In Mary Scheuerman’s case, the medication mix-up error was only discovered when she was dying in a Florida hospital. She was 85 years old and her doctor had prescribed her antidepressant medications. Instead, a Publix pharmacy gave her a powerful chemotherapy drug.

Compensation for Medication Injuries

When it comes to medication errors, you or a loved one can suffer harm by receiving the wrong medication, the wrong information or the way in which the medication is given.

Medication errors can happen in many ways, including:

  • Prescribing: The prescribing physician or physician’s assistant can prescribe the wrong medicine, the wrong dosage, or the medication may not be suitable because of allergies or other medication that the patient is taking.
  • Repackaging: In some instances, the prescription bottle may be labeled with incorrect information and fail to include important warnings. The pharmacists might also take medication from the wrong stock bottle if it has a similar name.
  • Dispensing: Any discrepancy between the prescription and the medication delivered to the patient is a dispensing error. These include giving the right prescription medication to the wrong person, or even the wrong amount of medication.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a medication error, including a medication mix-up, you should seek medical attention immediately.

You may also have the right to file a civil suit for any damages caused by the negligent doctor or pharmacy that gave you the wrong medication. Depending on the circumstances, even seemingly minor injuries like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or other temporary reactions might still be actionable.

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