Pharmacy Mistakenly Gives Cancer Medication to Multiple Children

755991_31038997_03072012.jpgChildren who should have received chewable fluoride tablets may instead have received Tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer, from a CVS Pharmacy in Chatham, New Jersey. Up to fifty families, according to initial reports, may have been affected by the error, in which the pharmacy dispensed the wrong medication over a period from December 1, 2011 to February 20, 2012. The fluoride pills, prescribed by dentists to prevent tooth decay, are typically flavored, while the cancer medication reportedly has a bad taste if chewed. Because of this, pharmacy representatives say that children would probably have noticed that they had received the wrong medication.

CVS issued a statement saying that children from roughly thirteen families mistakenly received Tamoxifen pills mixed in with the fluoride tablets. A spokesperson attributed the error to a “single medication restocking issue” at the one pharmacy location. The error affected the supply of 0.5mg fluoride tablets. The pharmacy reported that, according to the families they contacted, none of the children actually received any of the incorrect pills.

According to the Associated Press, Tamoxifen acts by blocking the female hormone estrogen. As such, it is not likely to cause serious harmful side effects to a child if taken for a short period of time. The New Jersey Attorney General’s office and the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs have nevertheless ordered the pharmacy to produce records for the period from December to February to account for the mixup. The pharmacy reports that it is still investigating the matter and is cooperating fully with state authorities.

The particular incident had a positive outcome because, fortunately, no one was injured, and the particular drug involved in the mixup had limited potential to cause harm. It underscores the critical importance, however, of remaining watchful for errors that can occur. In addition to checking to see that the label on the medication bottle matches the prescription, patients should also confirm that the medication itself matches the description. Many prescription bottles include a physical description of the medication itself, identifying the shape and color of the medication and stating whether it is in tablet, capsule, or another form. Not all pharmacies include this information on the bottle itself, but all prescriptions should include an insert with comprehensive information about the drug, including a physical description. This is a patient’s last line of defense against potential pharmacy errors.

Pharmacists, along with other medical professionals like doctors and nurses, have a duty to provide care to patients with a very high standard. Society places a great deal of trust in medical professionals, giving them charge over people’s health and well-being, and so the law imposes much responsibility on them. A pharmacist who fills a prescription incorrectly may be liable for a person’s damages if the person is injured due to the mistake. This often takes the form of a mixup of drugs, with a similar-sounding or similar-looking medication replaced for another one by accident. It can also involve an incorrect dosage or method of administering a drug.

The Maryland pharmacy error attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can assist you if you have been injured by drugs prescribed, dispensed, or administered incorrectly. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 to see if you may recover damages.

More Blog Posts:

Pharmacist Jailed for Fatal Medication Error, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 16, 2011
Infant Dies of Accidental Antibiotic Overdose in Hospital, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2011
Consumer Reports Health Investigation Finds Drug Label Warning Inconsistency, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2011
Photo credit: ‘pills’ by Dima V on stock.xchng.

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