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Most medical experts would agree that when it comes to protecting yourself and your family against medication errors, the best line of defense is vigilance. Specifically, it can pay real dividends to set aside just a few moments to read through the literature accompanying a prescription.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that we are often so busy that we either forget to take this step or simply choose to rely on the professionalism and skill of the pharmacy staff.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with relying on pharmacy staff, it’s important to remember that many pharmacies — particularly the ubiquitous big chains — are under immense pressure from their corporate headquarters to fill as many prescriptions as possible in the shortest amount of time.
This creates a perfect environment for prescription errors involving the wrong drug, wrong dosage or, as aptly illustrated in a story out of Illinois, the wrong patient.
In 2012, the parents of a 5-year-old boy picked up what they thought was the correct prescription to treat their son’s allergies at a local big chain pharmacy and later administered it to their son in accordance with the instructions on the bottle.
It soon became evident that something was terribly wrong, however, after the boy slept for almost two days straight and showed signs of a flaring neck after awakening from this prolonged slumber.
The boy’s parents called paramedics, who initially believed the boy to be choking. However, once they left after the flaring subsided, things got progressively worse as the boy showed abnormal behavior and finally fainted.
The parents eventually took their son to the hospital where they learned from physicians that the medication he had taken was not an allergy drug, but a strong antipsychotic.
As it turns out, the patient for whom the prescription was written had the exact same name as the 5-year-old boy, meaning no precautions had been taken to prevent a mix-up.
“We almost lost our son. Could you imagine if I had given him more dosage?” said the boy’s father.
While the boy appears to have recovered physically, his parents say he still suffers anxiety from the incident and that the long-term effects of the medication mishap remain unclear. Understandably, they have chosen to file a lawsuit against the pharmacy alleging that it should have known that the antipsychotic — haloperidol — was not meant for their son.
Stories like these only serve to reaffirm just how important it is to make time — no matter how busy we are — to double check any and all prescriptions, and to hold pharmacists accountable for errors.
Source: NBC 5, “Family says pharmacy error nearly killed boy,” Chris Coffey, Feb. 26, 2014
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