Pharmacy Mistakes Can Be Deadly


By Lynn Fugaro, Staff Writer

You go to a pharmacy and pick up your prescription for pain medication that you’ve taken on and off for a while. After a few days, you start exhibiting paranoid, delusional behavior and everyone who knows you can tell something is wrong. It is possible you’ve been the victim of a pharmacy error, meaning the pharmacist dispensed a psychiatric medication instead of your pain medication, and you’ve had an adverse reaction because you’re not psychotic.

That’s exactly what happened recently at a “big chain” pharmacy when one customer got anti-psychotic medication instead of her usual pain medication. Over the course of the next several days, the woman taking the wrong drug was showing signs of psychosis and was delusional. She went back to her doctor, with the medication she had been given at the pharmacy, and her doctor immediately noticed she was taking the wrong medication.

In this terrifying case, the pills looked exactly the same, which is actually quite common with many different types of medication. There are hundreds of drugs that are manufactured as round, white pills, for instance, and even when the pills don’t look like the ones taken in the past, we trust that the pharmacist dispensed our correct prescribed medication. When generic drugs are dispensed, sometimes there will be slight variations in color or shape, while brand name drugs will always look completely the same every time you get them filled.

Pharmacy Errors: More Common Than You Might Think

We trust that our pharmacist is dispensing what our doctor ordered, but, unfortunately, that is not always the case. In fact, you may be surprised to learn just how common medication mistakes at pharmacies actually are: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 1.3 million people are injured by medication errors every year in this country. For this reason, many personal injury attorneys accept “pharmacist malpractice” claims, and because serious illness and even death may occur after taking the wrong medication, these cases can be very complex, expensive, and time consuming.

Pharmacy errors can happen many different ways. While giving someone the wrong medication is the most serious mistake a pharmacist can make, it is not the only one. Here are some of the most common medication errors made:

  • Wrong dosage
  • Wrong instructions
  • Wrong person receives the medication
  • Wrong warning label
  • Dangerous drug interactions

There are many different reasons pharmacies make these medication errors. People working in a pharmacy may be tired after working long hours, doctors’ handwriting can be difficult to read, and people can be careless not devoting the time and attention necessary to do such an important job. Mistakes in the medical industry cost lives, and making a medication error is one of the most serious types of medical malpractice because people often don’t realize they’ve taken the wrong medication until they have become ill or suffered in some other way.

Keep in mind that while a victim of a pharmacy error is taking the wrong medication, he is, at the same time, not getting the medication he was prescribed. So, if you must take hypertension medication to keep your blood pressure stable, and your pharmacist dispenses some other drug that is not your proper medication, then your blood pressure (and your overall health) will surely be affected. Be sure to check your pill bottle’s contents and label very carefully before leaving the pharmacy, and do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist any questions you may have. If you suspect something may be wrong, please contact your doctor immediately and bring the pills to his office.

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