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Prescription errors can be deadly

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, each year, over 100,000 people in our nation die because of adverse drug reactions. While it's not known just how many of these deaths are due to a prescription error, a study of a pharmacy in New Jersey reported 1,371 mistakes out of 9,846 prescriptions. Some of the errors encountered included bottles that contained the wrong medicine or dosage to those that had an incorrect label. It boiled down to about one error for every eight prescriptions.

For one mother, a prescription error had tragic results. Instead of a bottle of Ritalin for her daughter, 8, the bottle contained a medication for diabetes. The dosage was 16 times what an adult would take. When the little girl took the medication, she went into a coma and she suffered permanent damage to her brain. An investigation showed that the pharmacist who made the prescription error was working a 12-hour shift and was at the end of a 60-hour work week.

It's not uncommon for pharmacists to work back-to-back 12-hours shifts and handle 30 prescriptions each hour. According to a Kaiser Permanente senior pharmacist, "That's two minutes to fill a prescription, counsel the patient, and check for potential drug interactions...It's no wonder mistakes are being made."

According to an Ohio State University report from 2007, there are an estimated 2.2 million prescription errors each year. One pharmacy expert says that patients need to take an active role when it comes to their medications. Ask what the prescription is, what it is for and if it will interfere with other drugs you are taking. Counseling by a pharmacist is required by law.

When a prescription error occurs and a patient suffers because of it, he or she may have recourse through a civil lawsuit. An experienced attorney can provide more information on how to proceed.

Source: HealthDay, "Avoiding Pharmacy Errors," Peter Jaret, accessed March 16, 2016

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