Experts: Consumers Can Protect Themselves Against Pharmacy Errors

By Avni Patel

Apr 2, 2007 6:00pm

The recent ABC News "20/20" undercover pharmacy investigation underscores the need for patients to seek important information about their medications, pharmacy experts say. "Patients view pharmacy, too often, like fast food," said Bruce Berger, who heads the department that designed and supervised the study at Auburn University’s School of Pharmacy.  "They just simply don’t understand that medicine is so much more powerful than it used to be, and it has the ability to help as well as harm." Dr. Berger recommends that patients make sure they leave the pharmacy with a clear understanding of how their drug works, the likely side effects and the dangers of drug interactions. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Blotter Results of the ABC News ’20/20′ Undercover Pharmacy Investigation Photos Unreported Pharmacy Errors 20/20 Video Pharmacy Errors: Unreported Epidemic? Click Here to Check Out Brian Ross Slideshows "The harm can come from interactions from other medicines they’re taking, which includes medicine they’re not getting from the pharmacy, in other words herbals, non-prescription drugs," says Berger. Berger recommends that patients alert the pharmacist to all medications they’re on, including any prescriptions filled at other pharmacies. The ABC News "20/20" undercover field study of prescription dispensing at the country’s best-known chain drug stores found that in more than one in five cases, chain pharmacies made some type of error in filling the prescriptions, although none of the errors included the wrong drug or dosage. Researchers also saw dramatic reduction in time spent on patient counseling by pharmacists, compared to a decade ago when ABC News and Auburn conducted a similar field test. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. "I hope the patients will create a demand to get the pharmacists out at the cash register, or even better, the counseling area where they can counsel them properly," says Dr. Betsy Flynn of Auburn University’s School of Pharmacy, who designed and supervised the study.  The Auburn experts says patients can help avoid a prescription error by taking the following steps: -Know what you’re taking and why. The information can help the pharmacist determine the medication in case of poor handwriting or difficulties reaching the doctor. -Many prescriptions now come with a physical description written on the vial. Compare what’s in the bottle to the description.  -Take time to wait for the pharmacist, even if he or she is not available immediately.  Not only can they provide important information, counseling will increase the chance of catching any error.  Click here for American Pharmacists Association list of question patients should ask pharmacists.

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