Today’s pharmacies are busy places. Thousands of incoming orders and outgoing medications, it’s difficult to find data on what the exact volume is. But if you’ve been to your local pharmacy recently, you know it’s a lot.
Some states have proposed limiting the number of prescriptions that can be filled per pharmacist, but there is little control over that type of system. Reality is that most prescription orders are actually filled by the technicians and “verified” by the pharmacist. Most patients are at the mercy of “the system” which includes all your information being kept in a computer database, and this is where you can take steps to at least make sure they have accurate information.
It’s probably not a good idea to use more than one pharmacy for your medications. The reason is that pharmacy computer where you order your medications keeps a list of all your medications and this way they are able to check for the potential for adverse reactions. If you are frequenting pharmacies that data is probably not shared.
So, many health care specialists recommend you do a pharmacy check-up at least twice a year. This means setting aside some time to ask your pharmacist to verify the information in their computer system as accurate and up-to-date. You should always have a list of exactly what medications you are taking and what the dosage is. Verify all this with your pharmacist. When anything changes, let them know immediately.
If you stop taking a particular medication, you should notify your pharmacist so they can remove it as being a “current” medication. We are at the mercy of the system in many respects, so we have to work with it and do our best to make sure the information is accurate.
Every time you drop off your prescriptions:
• Tell your pharmacist all the medications and over-the-counter drugs you take – especially those vitamins and herbal remedies purchased at health food or grocery stores, nutrition or smoothie shops. Your pharmacist has references that identify potential drug interactions.
• Confirm that the computer has your current prescription benefit information, allergies and/or drug intolerances, and phone number.
• Find out how many refills you can get. Make sure that your physician has provided enough refills until your next visit. Prescriptions and refills are only valid for one year.
Each time you pick up your prescriptions:
• Confirm the drug is correct at the pharmacy counter. Compare the instructions given by your physician to the drug name on the pharmacy label.
• Open the bottle and look at the medications to confirm that the medications are imprinted with the correct drug name and strength. If there is no imprint, ask the pharmacist technician or the pharmacist to show you the bottle from which the medication was dispensed for comparison. Also learn what your medications look like if you take them over a period of time.
• Liquids usually have a unique scent. Learn to recognize your liquid medications by smell.
• Confirm the dosage is correct. Compare the instructions given by your physician to the instructions on the pharmacy label.
• Pediatric medications are at high risk for dosage errors. Most drugs’ dosages are based on weight. Confirm your child’s medication dose with your child’s doctor and/or pharmacist.
Every patient should try to play a role in the system by being inquisitive. Ask questions and verify everything. If you feel confused and don’t believe you can adequately do these things, ask for help. If a pharmacist or pharmacy tech won’t give you the time to properly explain things to you, ask the store manager. If you’re not satisfied, you may want to try a different pharmacy. And you can always ask your doctor for help, or the staff.
No system is perfect, but today’s prescription medication process is so stressed with high volume and multiple drugs that mistakes are common. Working with patients who are victims of pharmacy errors has been a special area of focus for our law practice for many years. It is a complex area and requires extensive knowledge of drugs and procedures used by physicians and pharmacies. If you believe you may have been made sick because of a pharmacy error, you should give us a call and tell us your circumstances. We are here to help. 954-356-0006.