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CVS Punished for Prescription Errors

About a year ago, I told you about a big problem with mortality rates stemming from prescription errors spiking 25 percent higher at the beginning of each month due to mistakes made at your local pharmacy. A recent settlement involving the CVS drug store chain in Massachusetts underscores all the concerns raised by that study.

The state investigated CVS, which operates 28 percent of the pharmacies in the state, for 62 verified incidents of prescription errors reported by consumers over the past four years.

Although none of the errors were fatal ones, the Massachusetts Board of Registration found some patients never received the right medication or dosages, causing serious and unnecessary side effects. Among the problems identified by the state board:

  • Drug inventories were improperly labeled.
  • Pharmacists didn't explain how medications worked as well as their side effects.
  • Sometimes, the ratio of pharmacists to assistants was too low.

Rather than target individual pharmacies, however, the state board required CVS to undergo safety reviews by the Institute of Safe Medicine Practices at more than 300 pharmacies for two years. Here's another factoid from the institute that won't make you feel any safer about taking prescriptions drugs: The typical error rate for pharmacies is 3 percent, which can range from misspelling a name on a bottle to dispensing the wrong medication.

One more reason, America leads the world in medical errors, a very dubious distinction.

Boston Globe February 10, 2006

Yahoo News February 9, 2006

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