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7,000 Deaths Per Year - Prescription Errors Rising

Shocking? Definitely. Tragic? Extremely. Unusual? Not at all. In fact, because of a shortage of pharmacists and the steady increase in the use of prescription medications, the rate of death and injury from botched prescriptions is skyrocketing, officials say. There are as many as 7,000 deaths annually in the United States from incorrect prescriptions. As many as 5 percent of the 3 billion prescriptions filled each year are incorrect.

With the number of prescriptions expected to climb to 4 billion by 2004 and the number of pharmacists steadily decreasing, there are bound to be more problems down the road.

Public health officials warn that medication mix-ups are a common problem. No one knows exactly how common because no one in the health care system is required to report it. No accurate records are kept. But the fact is, with an ever expanding array of medications - many with dangerously similar names - and with pharmacists filling more prescriptions than ever, the risk of error grows.

Pharmacists have the tremendous pressure of volume and numbers. So they have to get them out. That means they take less time to look at the prescription. They're less likely to double-check or triple-check to make sure that's the right drug the physician wanted.

Can you trust the pharmacy that fills your prescriptions? Maybe not. A number of cases from many states have shown that what the label says may not be what the container holds. Drugstore Prescription Errors, frequently called "misfills", are becoming more common for a number of reasons. As a result, injuries, illness, and death have been caused by the taking of harmful medication.

When a "misfill" occurs there are two related consequences: one is that the patient does not take the correct medication needed to treat an illness or condition; the second is that the patient takes a medication that was not prescribed and is likely to be dangerous. Sadly, permanent injury or death is sometimes the result.

More and more drugs being approved each year, many of them with similar names. With the baby-boomers now reaching an older age, more and more prescrpitions are being written. With the shortage of pharmacists, and the virtual disappearance of the local home-town pharmacist, more of these are being filled by technicians. Doctors have never been known for their good handwriting, so the possibility of error is inherent in the system. Drug companies are advertising prescription drugs on TV, creating a latent demand on the part of petients to have a particular drug. With the spread of internet access, on-line drug stores, both in the US and Canada, are filling prescriptions with no personal contact between patient and pharmacist.

Read the following pages carefully. Take responsibility for your own health. Do not become another statistic. Protect yourself.

  Frequently Asked Questions  

  What Can Physicians Do?  

  What Can Pharmacists Do?  

  What Can the Patient Do?  

  Keeping Good Records  

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Date of Last Update: 07/27/12