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Did your medication make you sick?

Have you been a victim of an error made by a pharmacist? The consequences may not only be costly but also life threatening. Some would suggest you could avoid such mistakes if you frequent only one pharmacy and build a relationship with the pharmacist who will become familiar with your needs and ailments. Although electronic prescriptions are becoming the norm, errors may continue to occur in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

Certain errors are more prevalent than others are.

Checking the contents of your package before leaving the pharmacy may be wise. That will give you the opportunity to spot obvious pharmacist's errors and have them rectified before it is too late. Some of the most common errors made by pharmacists include the following:

  • Wrong customer -- One of the most common mistakes is putting one patient's medication in a package labeled with another person's name.
  • Incorrect directions -- Another prevalent error is the wrong directions on the prescription label. This can be especially dangerous when parents administer incorrect dosages of medicine to children.
  • Wrong drug -- Drugs with similar sounding or similarly spelled names are sometimes confused. A rushed pharmacist can easily take the wrong one of two similar drugs from the shelf and dispense it without realizing the error. An example is methadone dispensed instead of methylphenidate -- the latter is used for the treatment of ADHD in children while the former is for the treatment of heroin addicts.
  • Missing drug interactions -- When a pharmacist is not familiar with the patient, he or she may miss possible dangerous interactions between new and previously prescribed medications. For instance, giving an antihistamine for a patient's allergic reaction without realizing that the person also takes medication for high blood pressure, sedatives or tranquilizers. Such combinations can be dangerous.

Some people have reported receiving a repeat prescription and noticing that the tablets or capsules looked different to the ones received on the previous occasion. As a customer, you are entitled to pharmacist-patient counseling to make sure you understand vital information about the medication you received. This may be the appropriate time to examine the contents of the package to make sure the contents agree with your prescription.

Electronic prescriptions will eliminate the dangers of illegible handwritten prescriptions that often lead to errors, and using barcodes may help prevent dispensing errors. The FDA is also addressing the issue of sound-alike and look-alike drugs and packaging for medicines. Furthermore, pharmacy software may include the flagging of dangerous interactions of drugs and medications.

Where to turn if you have become a victim to a pharmacy's negligence

If you are a victim of a medication or dispensing error, you might be facing substantial medical costs to treat a condition caused by the negligence of a pharmacist. Such damages are recoverable, and you are entitled to pursue financial relief through the Massachusetts judicial system. The most appropriate step may be to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can assess the circumstances of your claim and suggest the best way forward. A skilled attorney can advocate for you in negotiations for a fair settlement or help pursue damages for you in civil court if the matter is litigated.

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