A St. Louis man has sued Walgreens Pharmacy over an error in filling his prescription that led to him taking the wrong medication. A similar case in Colorado involves a young woman whose pregnancy was put at risk because of a prescription mistake. These cases illustrate both the potential for serious error in pharmacies and the importance of customers taking steps to research and understand their prescribed medications in order to avoid injury.
Ron Apenbrinck alleges that he tried to fill a prescription for the painkiller hydrocodone, but received a medication called Amlopidine Besylate, used to treat heart problems, according to KMOV television in St. Louis. The prescription bag had his name on it, but the pill bottle in the bag allegedly had a different patient’s name. Apenbrinck says he took the medication for several days until he became dizzy and suffered a fall. He spent several days in the hospital, having suffered a “mini-stroke.” He claims in his lawsuit that he has suffered permanent injuries, including an irregular heartbeat, head, neck, and back injuries, and nervous system damage. He further claims he must now take eleven medications daily to treat these injuries. Walgreens has allegedly apologized and offered to pay Apenbrinck’s medical bills. His lawsuit asks for millions of dollars in damages.
A Colorado case from earlier this year offers a chilling view of possible consequences of a pharmacy error. Mareena Silva, who was six-weeks pregnant, picked up a prescription from a Safeway in Fort Lupton, Colorado in February, expecting an antibiotic. She took one pill and began to feel nauseous. She then discovered that she had received a bottle of methotrexate prescribed for Maria Silva. The pharmacy had confused two similar-sounding names. Methotrexate is a cancer drug that can also be used in early termination of pregnancies. Silva rushed to the hospital for treatment. She did not lose her baby, but whether this incident will have an effect on the child’s health is not known. Safeway has also apparently apologized and offered to pay medical expenses.
Pharmacists have the primary duty to review all prescriptions and see that they are filled and distributed to patients correctly. Errors in the actual measuring and filling of prescriptions, up to the point where medications are put into bottles and labeled, clearly falls within the pharmacist’s responsibility. Once the prescription bottles are ready for the patient, the pharmacists still bears a duty of care and a professional responsibility to the patients, but patients have the ability to exercise a degree of care to protect themselves.
In the cases of both Apenbrinck and Silva, they did not read the label on the prescription bottle itself before taking the medication. Patients should take time to educate themselves about the medications they are prescribed, so they will know the correct medication and dosage at the pharmacy. They should also review both the bag and all bottles inside to confirm the correct name, medication, and dosage before checking out. This cannot guard against all mistakes, but can go a long way towards avoiding some common pharmacy errors.
For over 20 years, Doug Horn, a Kansas City pharmacy error attorney, has pursued the rights of people injured as a result of errors by pharmacists and medical professionals. Contact the Horn Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.
Institute for Safe Medication Practices home page
How to prevent yourself from accidentally getting someone else’s prescription at the pharmacy, Michael Cohen, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 2011
Don’t get the Wrong Person’s prescription medicine from your pharmacy, ConsumerMedSafety.org, September 16, 2011