Understaffing at Pharmacies May Affect Maryland Patients

When customers pick up medicine at the pharmacy, they should have a reasonable expectation that the pharmacists dispensing your prescription are well trained, proactive, and detail-oriented so that your medication is filled properly and correctly. What happens, however, when pharmacies are unable to provide patients with the high-quality care they deserve and wrong medications or doses put patients at risk for injury or death?

According to a recent news report, understaffing at various pharmacies has placed various patients at risk and has raised concerns about patient safety. After a pharmacist at a particular pharmacy gave a patient a hundred extra doses of a powerful prescription opioid and gave another patient an antibiotic that landed them in the hospital because of a known allergic reaction, there has been increased scrutiny on chronic understaffing and unsustainable workloads prevalent in pharmacies. One pharmacy chain, in particular, received a $427,000 fine after an investigation found that basic protocols were not being followed.

Because pharmacies, especially those that operate at high volume locations, are responsible for filling anywhere between 500 to 1,000 prescriptions a day, can receive upwards of ten phone calls at a time, and operate drive-thrus and in-store services such as medication counseling and flu vaccines, many pharmacists and technicians report being overworked and under-supported, leading to mistakes.

These mistakes, however, have significant consequences. In one particular case, a man died after a pharmacy dispensed a chemotherapy drug instead of the antidepressant they were actually prescribed. At other pharmacies, state inspectors have found error rates upwards of 37 percent, with mistakes such as prescribed dosages or the incorrect drug altogether going to unsuspecting patients.

Pharmacy understaffing and heavy workloads have been common for quite some time, even before the COVID-19 global pandemic increased demand and caused significant disruptions in staffing and availability. The pandemic, however, sent many pharmacies—and their staff—over the edge because demand for prescriptions and other pharmacy services exceeded the supply and availability of pharmacists and technicians to fill them.

Why Are Pharmacies Understaffed?

According to some reports, pharmacists routinely signed waivers attesting they would forego meal breaks, while others “routinely” ate their lunches behind a pharmacy safe because the location was too busy to pause working. Others have reported that sometimes the pharmacy would be so busy that it was not allowed to close for lunch, and it was a regular occurrence to work a 13-hour shift without time for a single bathroom break. Of course, these factors all increase the likelihood of a medication error.

As a patient, especially one with several regular medications that need to be dispensed or picked up at a pharmacy, the consequences of getting the incorrect medication or dose could have deadly consequences. It is crucial as a patient or caretaker to always check the name listed on the prescription, the dosage, the name of the drug, and instructions to ensure that your medication is not only yours but is correct. In the event of any uncertainty, it never hurts to give your doctor or pharmacist a call to confirm.

Do You Need a Maryland Medication Error Lawyer?

If you or someone you love has recently suffered an injury or death as a result of a Maryland medication error or pharmacy mistake, contact the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen today. Our lawyers have recovered more than $65 million on behalf of our clients and have represented individuals in all types of medical malpractice and pharmacy error claims. To schedule a free initial consultation today, contact us at 800-654-1949.




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