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Some Boston drug chains may sacrifice safety for speed

| Mar 2, 2014 | Anesthesia & Medication Errors

Communication requirements increase with every additional person involved in preparing a Boston patient’s prescription. A nurse’s dosage mistake or an anesthesia error can compromise a patient’s health. A hurried pharmacist’s misinterpretation of a doctor’s order may cause serious side effects for a patient who takes the wrong drug.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy receives complaints about chain store pharmacies. NABP officials are concerned chain drug stores have adopted “fast food” mentalities. Employees who’ve worked in these pharmacy settings say medication errors are routine due to company pressure to provide rapid customer response and order filling.

A former CVS/pharmacy employee spent 30 years filling prescriptions, while living in fear the company’s prescription mistakes would cause a patient’s death. The ex-CVS pharmacist recently filed a whistleblower claim. The drug chain allegedly endangered customers by understaffing pharmacies and forcing pharmacists to meet unreasonable customer delivery quotas.

The plaintiff said he complained to his employer after CVS/pharmacy instituted quick-service policies. The company reportedly retaliated against the pharmacist for questioning the new timed-response standards. The rules, set in place about five years ago, apparently were accompanied by a 20 percent staff cut.

Another pharmacist, still working for CVS/pharmacy, and an investigative news team confirmed the drug chain’s time constraints were real. The employee said at least one pharmacy drug error was detected daily, usually when a customer was refilling a prescription. The implication — drug or dosage mistakes — weren’t uncovered until patients had already taken the drug.

An NABP official said it’s impossible to know just how many chain pharmacy prescription errors are made. The companies aren’t required to report mistakes. State boards of pharmacy do not have the power to mandate the drug error reporting.

Massachusetts consumers often hear about pharmacy errors only after the media learns a lawsuit has been filed. By then, it’s likely at least one patient has suffered due to negligence.

Source: NBC Washington, “Prescription for Error? I-Team Investigates Pharmacy Mistakes” Tisha Thompson, Feb. 24, 2014


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