There are many things which can go wrong within a hospital and surgical errors account for the majority of medical malpractice incidents. Although most patients are not surprised hear that surgical mistakes happen, many people are unaware that what they bring home in a pill bottle may be just as dangerous.
A survey of Canadian community pharmacists indicates that up to 15 percent of the prescriptions they fill may contain an error of some sort. Safety advocates in that country pose the implementation of an electronic prescription database to catch potential medication errors and prescription drug abuse.
American doctors have begun to cut down on the number of pharmacy medication errors by dispensing their drugs themselves, but pharmacists note that this creates a host of other problems. Pharmacists have uniform and regulated procedures for the labeling, storage and supervision of medication, whereas physicians may be more lax in these matters.
Pharmacists also perform an important second check on prescriptions and may have a more accurate picture of a patient’s drug portfolio than a care provider. Medication errors are most likely to happen when a doctor prescribes a medicine, but pharmacists catch approximately half of these errors. This means that many patients will still suffer from dosage errors when pharmacists are used, but potentially far more will have issues if doctors continue to prescribe medications on their own.
Source: Financial Post, “When Pills Kill,” Rebecca Walberg, Feb. 28, 2012; Philly.com, “When doctors – not pharmacists – dispense meds,” Michael Cohen, March 13, 2012