Recent reports show there are around 280,000 pharmacists in American and around 390,000 pharmacy technicians. That is a lot of people who are bound to make pharmaceutical mistakes occasionally. That said, it is hard to find solid statistics on exactly how many pharmaceutical mistakes are made by pharmacy staff.

One study examined 142,000 medications prescribed by hospital pharmacies. Of those, 3.6 percent contained errors. And 24 percent of those errors would have caused adverse effects.

Pharmacies are fallible, just like everything and everyone else. Unfortunately, when  pharmaceutical mistakes happen, it can mean danger for a patient.

There are often stories about a pharmacy giving one patient the medicines that belong to another patient. Or, a pharmacist misreads a prescription and doesn’t bother to double check with the prescribing physician, giving the wrong medicine or dose to a patient.

While it is impossible to prevent all pharmaceutical mistakes, there should be measures put into place to reduce the number of errors. Measures could include more training for pharmaceutical technicians, better organization systems and better communications with physicians. Another measure could be to provide prescriptions at the doctor’s office rather than sending to the pharmacy.

Keep reading to learn more about common errors made in the pharmacy.

Pharmaceutical Mistakes – Dispensing the Wrong Drug

There have been recent cases in the news reporting pharmacists dispensing the wrong drug. The results were fatal.

Pharmacists are busy, it is easy to make pharmaceutical mistakes like this when you are dispensing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of medications each day.

Many times, pharmaceutical technicians are assisting in filling a prescription. They are less qualified than a pharmacist, increasing room for error.

Because some medicines are similar in shape, color and size, pharmacists confuse one drug for the other.

Not only is dispensing the wrong drug a problem, but dispensing the wrong dosage of the right medicine.

Dispensing the Wrong Dosage

Different patients are affected by different dosages. A large adult male may need a higher dose than a small petite woman taking the same medicine. If a pharmacist dispenses a dose that is too high, a person can overdose.

Pharmacists make mistakes when it comes to delivering the wrong dose of medication to patients.

If a pharmacist dispenses a dose that is too low, a person may not benefit from any of the effects of the medicine. If the effects of the medicine are to keep blood from clotting or decrease blood pressure, there could be serious negative consequences if their dose is too low.

Miscommunication Between Pharmacists and Physicians

There are times when pharmacists receive a prescription from a doctor that is hard to read. Or, the doctor is prescribing a medication without knowledge that the patient is on a drug, given by a different doctor, that will interact.

When this happens, pharmacists need to contact the physician to verify the prescription details and inform them of all the medications a patient is taking. This gives the physician an opportunity to change the prescription, if needed.

In our rushed society, and with the hundreds of orders needing to be filled each day, pharmacists seem reluctant to contact the physician. However, by not contacting the physician, errors happen and the patients are the ones who suffer.

Failure to Protect Against Harmful Drug Interactions

Often, patients have different doctors who are prescribing different medications. It is not uncommon that the prescribing physicians know nothing about one another. The patient does not always make this information available, whether intentional or not.

The pharmacist is the central person who knows all the drugs being taken by the patient. Errors occur when a pharmacist fails to track this information or even worse, when they know of drug interactions but fail to contact the doctor or warn patients.

This becomes dangerous when medications which, if taken at the same time, cause the medications to be less effective or to increase the desired effects. There are some side effects that can create health hazards and even death.

Pharmacists can also fail to check if the patient has drug allergies that may cause reactions.Medicines that are synthetic consist of multiple ingredients. Patents may have allergies to the ingredients used to hold a pill together. Or, they may be allergic to the gel that makes caps.

A pharmacist who does not take the time to verify patient allergies could cause the patient to have a negative reaction when taking their prescription.

Failure to Provide Adequate Counseling

There is a direct connection between patients adhering to their medicine regimens when they receive counseling from the pharmacist. So why isn’t every pharmacist providing counseling?

Cashiers at the pharmacy ask customers if they have questions. What they don’t realize is that patients feel pressured to pay for their medicines and get out of the way of the next patient in line who is impatiently waiting.

In addition, customers do not like providing personal information unless it is in a confidential setting. Standing in line at the pharmacy is not confidential.

Sometimes, pharmacists are simply negligent in providing counseling.

Because pharmacies are so busy, most people do not feel comfortable monopolizing the time of a pharmacist, even when they do have questions.

Patients are given written information, a lot of it, to read when they have time. However, most patients do not take the time to read this information. It contains a lot of data that the ordinary person doesn’t understand.

In addition, when people are ill, the last thing they want to do is read ten pages about the drug they are taking.

Most patients leave with their prescription, go home, and take the medicine according to what it says on the bottle. Or, they avoid taking their medication altogether due to frustration and confusion.

This needs to be fixed. It is up to the pharmacist to make sure patients understand their medicines before they leave the pharmacy.

There are ways to avoid all these errors. They include having the physician dispense the medications directly to their patients at the point of care.

In office dispensing provides patients with a chance to discuss their prescriptions with the physician in a private setting. Because the physician is only dispensing to their patients, a much lighter case load than a pharmacist, fewer errors will occur.

Using in-office dispensing software programs and prepackaged medication provides an extra layer of safety and is easy for the physician and qualified staff to quickly deliver the prescription to the patient.

Providing the best patient care is the goal of physicians and medical staff.Patients benefit the most when they can get their medicine at the point of care.