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Today, our blog will continue exploring the myriad ways in which prescription errors are committed by pharmacy staff — techs and pharmacists — and the steps that many establishments are now implementing to rectify this problem.
How do errors occur during the pill dispensing process?
In general, a tech will compare the unique identification number found on medication taken from drug storage shelves with a number found on the prescription information sheet via a barcode scan. Once this is done, the labels will print, the pills will be counted out and the prescription bottles will be prepared for patient pickup.
While this seems like a straightforward and safe process, experts indicate that techs can accidentally select the wrong drug that has a similar sounding name to the drug actually prescribed — think Zantac vs. Zyrtec — or select the right drug in the wrong dosage.
To prevent this from occurring, many pharmacies have separated drugs with similar sounding names so that there is less chance for confusion, and posted signs reminding techs to be alert to similar sounding drug names and drugs with differing dosages.
Can errors occur during the final verification process?
Unfortunately, errors can and do occur during the final verification process, as pharmacists can either fail to note a discrepancy between the medication prescribed and the medication found in the bottles, or a discrepancy in the prescription written and the prescription order entered by the tech in the computer system.
Here, many pharmacies have introduced computer software allowing pharmacists to perform a side-by-side on-screen comparison of the prescription written and the prescription order entered in the computer system. Some of this software also provides color pictures of medication that clearly show markings and shapes to allow for quick visual confirmation.
It’s encouraging to see that many pharmacies have acknowledged these dangers and are taking the necessary steps to protect patients from prescription errors. However, the unfortunate reality is that medication mistakes resulting in serious injuries — or worse — will likely still occur despite these safeguards. When this happens, it’s important for the affected parties to seek the justice they deserve.
Source: USA Today, “A prescription’s path through a pharmacy,” Kevin McCoy and Erik Brady, Accessed Nov. 5, 2014