Washington DC News Investigation Finds Multiple Medication Errors at National Pharmacy Chain

Kirby_Lester_KL30_pharmacy_automation_counting_%26_verification_system.jpgIn a report on its investigation of the national pharmacy chain CVS/pharmacy, Washington DC’s NBC affiliate, News 4, claims to have found numerous alleged medication errors and other problems. Consumers reported receiving the wrong prescription and, in at least one case, meeting with indifference from employees. A former CVS pharmacist with more than thirty years at the company filed a whistleblower lawsuit last year, alleging in part that the company fired him in retaliation for reporting his concerns about an increasing rate of medication errors due to staff reductions. CVS has denied the allegations against it and publicly stated its commitment to protecting patients’ health and safety.

Washington’s News 4 reported a woman’s claim that CVS made a mistake when refilling her prescription for potassium citrate, which she took for her kidneys. She noticed that the pills did not look familiar, and saw that the pharmacy had given her a bottle of potassium chloride instead of citrate. The pills look similar and have similar names, but they have very different uses. Potassium chloride is used to treat hypokalemia, or low blood potassium, and can cause serious, even fatal, complications for some kidney patients. The woman claimed that when she notified the pharmacy manager of the mistake, he responded “Well, potassium is potassium.”
The report also looked at automatic refills, a service offered by CVS and other pharmacies. This allows the pharmacy to refill a prescription at regular intervals, so that the patient does not have to call and request a refill. Problems may occur, however, if the pharmacy refills prescriptions that the patient does not want or need. An elderly patient told the news team that he ended up with more Lidoderm patches, which contain an extremely strong painkiller, than he wanted, based on the auto refill system. This could lead to confusion for some patients, who might not realize that they are receiving medications they did not request.

A lawsuit filed in July 2013 by a former CVS pharmacist in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania asserts various causes of action for wrongful termination. The plaintiff is the pharmacist who advised the woman mentioned earlier in this post not to take the potassium chloride. The lawsuit alleges that the company fired the plaintiff in part because he was speaking out about his concerns regarding patient safety. The plaintiff claims that he told his district manager multiple times about his concerns over reduction in the pharmacy’s staffing levels, which he said was causing an increase in the number of medication errors. He also claimed that the pharmacy was dispensing prescriptions without proper labeling as required by state law.

CVS responded in writing to News 4’s report, asserting that its top priority is the “health and well-being of [its] patients.” It claims that all prescriptions filled at its pharmacies go through a multi-step review process, before ever reaching the patient, in order to minimize the possibility of a misfill or other error.

The pharmacy error attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can assist Maryland individuals who have been injured by drugs prescribed, dispensed, or administered incorrectly. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Hospital Allegedly Gives Infant Incorrect Dosage of Medication for Meningitis Treatment, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, February 6, 2014
Similar Drug Names Can Cause Confusion, Catastrophe if Pharmacy Makes an Error, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, January 15, 2014
Settlement in Hospital Pharmacy Case Demonstrates Weaknesses in Systematic Checks, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, December 19, 2013
Photo credit: By Kirby Lester, LLC [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Contact Information