The Chicago Tribune newspaper just finished the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind by testing 255 pharmacies to see how often they dispensed dangerous drug pairs without warning patients.
More than half, 52%, sold the medications without mentioning the potentially serious interaction.
This is striking evidence of an industrywide failure that places millions of consumers at risk. The study, which took place over the course of two years, exposes the systemic flaws in our pharmacy industry as fundamental safety rules are not being followed, computer alert systems designed to flag drug interactions either don’t work or are ignored, and some pharmacies emphasize fast service over patient safety.
CVS, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, had the highest failure rate, dispensing the medications with no warning 63% of the time. Walgreens had the lowest failure rate at 30%. Independent pharmacies as a group had a higher failure rate than any retail chain, missing risky drug interactions 72% of the time. In response to the study, CVS, Walgreens and Wal-Mart each vowed to take significant steps to improve patient safety at its stores nationwide. They have vowed to provide additional training to their combined 123,000 pharmacists and technicians. CVS said it would improve its internal policies and its computer system to “dramatically” increase warnings to patients.
Dangerous drug combinations are a major public health problem, and they send many thousands of patients to the hospital each year. The role of pharmacists as the last line of defense against this problem is growing as Americans use more prescription drugs than ever. Today, 10% of Americans take more than five prescription medicines, which is double the rate only 20 years ago. While some pharmacists did appropriately warn of the dangers of taking the two medications together, many others did not. Those pharmacists dispensed pairs of drugs that could trigger a stroke, result in kidney failure, deprive the body of oxygen or lead to unexpected pregnancy with a risk of birth defects. Interestingly, the location of the pharmacy did not matter as failures happened in all kinds of neighborhoods.
It is important as a medical consumer that patients inform all of their physicians of all of their medications, so that each prescriber is aware of potential interactions. It is also helpful if patients fill all of their prescriptions at the same chain, so that there is one computer system to monitor drug interactions. But ultimately, it is important for patients to ask questions when they pick up their prescriptions in order to keep themselves safe.
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury as a result of a pharmacy improperly filling your prescription, please call us so that we can give you a free consultation regarding how we might help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Author: Serena C. Montague
Publication Date: December 21, 2016