Pharmacist Dispensing Errors and How They’re Prevented

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When you need a prescription, you trust the pharmacy to fill it correctly. However, pharmacist dispensing errors happen in hospital and community settings.

Our medical malpractice lawyer in Greenville at Bobby Jones Law explains pharmacist dispensing errors and how they’re prevented.

What Are Pharmacist Dispensing Errors?

A pharmacist dispensing error occurs when a pharmacist gives someone a medication other than the one that was prescribed for them in the amount that it was prescribed. It is a mistake that may be the result of human error or a computer system that produces incorrect information.

Pharmacy dispensing errors may include:

  • The wrong medication
  • Too strong or too weak of a dose
  • Leaving a medication out, incomplete filling
  • Too many or too little
  • Expired medications
  • Wrong patient name
  • Label that is incomplete or incorrect
  • Directions that have the wrong frequency
  • Wrong or damaged container
  • Incorrect documentation of filling the prescription

A pharmacist error is a mistake when a drug is prepared and delivered. Pharmacist dispensing errors occur in both hospital and community settings.

How Common Are Pharmacist Dispensing Errors?

A study in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy says that pharmacist dispensing errors may be as high as 1.6%. It may depend in part on what’s counted as error and how mistakes are classified.

How much do pharmacist dispensing errors cost the economy?

Medication errors including pharmacist dispensing errors may cost the world economy as much as $42 billion each year.

Why do pharmacy dispensing errors occur?

Pharmacy dispensing errors may occur for several reasons:

  • Look alike/sound alike: Some drugs look alike and sound alike. Patients may have similar names. Failing to carefully check and notice differences may result in errors.
  • Rushing: Pharmacies are often understaffed. Workers may be pressured to work too quickly, or they may suffer from fatigue.
  • Computer error: Database errors or incorrect inputs may result in patient mix ups or incorrect labeling.
  • Distractions: A pharmacy can be a busy, chaotic environment. Distractions may result in mistakes.
  • Illegible writing: Handwritten prescriptions may be difficult to read. A pharmacist may misinterpret writing.
  • Failing to perform checks: When a pharmacist doesn’t take the time to check their work, the result may be harmful to a patient.
  • Cognitive problems: A pharmacist with a health problem may have impaired judgment and be unable to work in a satisfactory manner.
  • Poor qualifications or training: When a pharmacist is poorly trained or otherwise unqualified, they may be more likely to make errors.

Pharmacist dispensing errors occur because of a lack of ability or lack of attention. There may be a combination of factors that ultimately result in a dispensing mistake. Systems may be prone to error, or a worker may simply make a mistake.

What Happens If a Pharmacist Makes a Dispensing Error?

If a pharmacist makes a dispensing error, seek the appropriate medical attention, including emergency care, if needed. Follow up with your medical care provider.

What do you do if a pharmacy dispensing mistake occurs?

If a pharmacy dispensing mistake occurs, first get medical help. Get the medication that you need and address any problems that may have resulted from taking the wrong medication. Then, let the pharmacy know that a mistake occurred.

Save anything related to the error like the prescription bottle, receipt from the pharmacy and instructions that came with the drug. Take pictures of these items, too.

Don’t take the unused medication, but don’t destroy it either. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Your attorney can take over any conversations with the pharmacy. Only give the pharmacy the basic information that they need to ensure the safety of others. Your lawyer will follow up with additional steps to protect your rights.

Preventing Pharmacist Dispensing Errors

Ways to prevent pharmacist dispensing errors include:

  • Adequate staffing: When a pharmacy is adequately staffed, workers can take time to fill prescriptions and double check their work.
  • Rest breaks: Workers need sufficient rest and time to tend to personal matters.
  • Audits: Routine and irregular audits can identify systematic errors and risks.
  • Employment procedures: Those responsible for staffing should ensure that qualified workers are hired. If a worker is incapable of performing their duties, it should be addressed before harm results to a patient.
  • Improved systems: Addressing points of human error, like handwritten prescriptions or information given over the phone, can improve methods and processing.
  • Electronic warnings: Electronic systems should flag potential mistakes. In addition, multiple verification points, like a birthdate in addition to a name, can reduce errors.
  • Checking discrepancies: When a pharmacist notices a discrepancy, or when information is unclear, they should stop, evaluate the situation, and proceed cautiously.
  • A culture of careful work: Pharmacy administrators should encourage and reward careful work.
  • Patient checks: A patient should check their medication before they consume it. They should make sure that their name is on the label and that the information appears correct.
  • Resources: Workers need resources to appropriately store and access medications.

Addressing factors that contribute to pharmacist dispensing errors may reduce their occurrence.

The Harm from Pharmacist Prescription Errors

Receiving the correct prescription is critical to a positive health outcome. A pharmacist dispensing error prevents the patient from receiving the medication that they need. In addition, an error may result in additional harm because someone may take a medication that they should not have taken. In addition to worse health outcomes, errors add significant costs to healthcare services.

A pharmacy error is often the result of negligence. The victim may have the right to claim financial compensation.

Talk to a Lawyer About a Pharmacy’s Mistake

Have you been the victim of a pharmacist dispensing error? Do you believe that an error may have occurred? Contact Bobby Jones Law to talk to a lawyer.

We can evaluate the situation and determine your rights. You may have the right to monetary compensation, and we can help you claim it. A claim may seek compensation for the financial costs of medical care related to the error as well as your pain and suffering.

To talk to a lawyer today at a free consultation, call or message us now.

The team at Bobby Jones Law LLC works tirelessly for the injured in South Carolina. His achievements include:
  • More than $60 million collected for our clients
  • Multiple recoveries exceeding $1 million, including an eight-figure settlement
  • Recognized by Best Lawyers in America
  • Named among the “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers
  • Named to Super Lawyers 2017–2024
  • Member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • Selected as Legal Elite of the Upstate 2021–2023
We’re humbled to be considered one of the top firms in the Upstate and invite you to learn what sets our award-winning legal services apart. Call or request a consultation online.
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