According to recent reporting, millions of medication errors occur each year, often at chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, where a pharmacist may fill hundreds of prescriptions during a shift while juggling other tasks such as giving vaccinations, calling doctors’ offices to confirm prescriptions and working the drive-through. In a recent survey of California licensed pharmacists in 2021, 91% of pharmacists working at chain pharmacies stated that staffing was insufficient to provide adequate care to patients. The state’s Board of Pharmacy, a regulatory board, requires pharmacies to document and track errors internally and inform patients about mistakes under some circumstances, only 62% of pharmacists working in chains stated that stores were following those rules according to the 2021 survey.
One documented error resulted in the improper dose of a hormonal treatment for breast cancer being delivered. Another case resulted in a pregnant patient suffering a fall after she was given two drugs prescribed to another customer. One patient took prednisone, a powerful steroid, for 89 days after a Walgreens pharmacist confused the drug with Prilosec, the heartburn drug that had actually been prescribed. A pharmacist at CVS gave a patient another customer’s prescription for 50-milligram tablets of Zoloft, the antidepressant, according to a February citation. The person took the wrong drug for at least seven months, refilling the prescription three times.
How Common Are Medication Errors?
According to reports, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives approximately 100,000 medication error reports annually. In 2010, the FDA received only 16,689, but by 2018, the agency was receiving more than 100,000 reports per year. Experts point out that medication error reports are submitted on a voluntary basis, meaning that true medication errors are likely even higher.