WKYT Investigates | Potential dangers of mistakes by pharmacists
Medication errors can range from inconvenient to deadly.
Once doctors write a prescription, there's a high expectation on the pharmacists to get it right, every time. There is no room for error. Pharmacists say they're doing more in a day than they've ever had to do before, and the extra work could lead to extra errors. State pharmacy associations across the nation are addressing their concerns.
As for the errors, WKYT pulled the paperwork from the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy. In the last two years, the board has received more than 30 complaints of medication errors. The complaints range from concerning to chilling.
"It was a busy Friday after work, and I know how that can add to mistake-making," wrote a mother in Henderson. She was told to give the wrong dose, a double dose, of an antibiotic to her toddler for an ear infection.
Another child, also in Henderson, ended up in urgent care when the medicine prescribed, a single dose, was dispensed by the pharmacist at four times the prescribed amount. A patient in Prestonsburg was given a medication intended for someone else. The patient took the medication for almost a month before discovering the mistake. In a case settled out of court, a man in Corbin got his medication unknowingly switched to a sedative. He said he took one dose, started riding his motorcyle, crashed, and got a bad burn on his leg.
"Unfortunately mistakes happen, and I believe in the pharmacy world that that's unfortunate because a simple error, putting the wrong medication in the wrong bottle, can have very very bad results," noted Chris Palutis, the chairman of the Kentucky Pharmacists Association. "Pharmacists are expected to do more with less help than ever before. Ten years ago you'd fill prescriptions, you'd counsel patients, you'd help them with over the counter stuff. That's what we did. Now we do all that plus we do flu immunizations, we do Hepatitis A immunizations, we have to do a lot of pharmacies do monthly psychiatric injections for patients. On top of that the insurance world is getting more and more complicated, so our staff is spending more and more time dealing with insurance problems."
Palutis owns C&C Pharmacy in Lexington.
"I will tell you, I've been a pharmacist for over 25 years. I've never met a pharmacist that doesn't get sick to their stomach when they make even the smallest error or mistake."
Preventing those mistakes may start with caring for the pharmacist. Palutis says his association is creating a Pharmacy Work Environment Advisory Committee.
"We're doing that because we do recognize that more and more pharmacists are complaining about their quality of work, their quality of life in the workplace."
They're lobbying for an end to pharmacy middlemen, called pharmacy benefit management. They're keeping a close eye on the number of students entering the field. They're taking small steps to try and stop big mistakes from hurting their patients.
The Kentucky Pharmacists Association would like to see Senate Bill 50 pass this legislative session. The bill would allow the Department for Medicaid Services to establish its own out-patient pharmacy benefit program.