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Pharmacies Miss Half of Dangerous Drug Combinations

In the U.S., 1 in 10 people are taking five or more prescription drugs. That alone is distressing news, but what’s even more disconcerting is the fact that it’s possible that at some point many of these people not only will be prescribed drugs that negatively react with each other, but that will be filled by a pharmacist who fails to warn patients of the possible interaction, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The two-year-long study performed by the Tribune’s staff showed that dangerous combinations of drugs were dispensed 52 percent of the time with no warnings to the purchaser. This is a fascinating report that deserves nationwide attention, especially because medical errors are the third leading cause of death.

And while one might argue that dangerous drug combinations aren’t “errors” per se, if it kills you, you become one of the 250,000 Americans who die each year because of an error in your treatment plan. The U.S. has the most expensive health care in the world, yet it ranks dead last in health and mortality when compared with 17 other developed nations.

Addressing the poor health of Americans is an issue all its own. But if you’re already on prescription drugs, drug safety needs to become a priority, not an afterthought, especially since the 21st Century Cures Act relaxes FDA standards and makes it easier for experimental drugs and vaccines to come to market without being adequately tested for safety.

In the meantime, doctors need better plans to prevent prescribing dangerous drug combinations, and pharmacies need stricter monitoring programs to prevent dangerous combinations from being distributed.