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When Pharmacy Employees Stock Automated Prescription Filling Machines Errors Can Happen

David W. Hodges
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It is mind-boggling how many pills are dispensed everyday at pharmacies around the country. Because pharmacy technicians and pharmacists are busier than ever before, many pharmacies have started using automated dispensing machines to reduce dispensing time while increasing patient safety. The introduction of automated prescription-filling machines brought the promise of preventing pharmacy errors and allowing pharmacists to dedicate more time to patient care; however, pharmacy errors have occurred involving these machines.

Pharmacy Errors Associated with Automated Dispensing Machines

The machines only are truly safe when pharmacy workers use them properly. There is still room for human error, as automated dispensing machines still rely on pharmacy employees to load pills into the machine. When workers fail to follow the procedures put in place by their pharmacies, patients unfortunately suffer the results. Typically, the errors associated with these machines occur when pharmacy technicians or pharmacists commingle pills accidentally. The result: prescription bottles are filled with various types of pills and patients end up getting the wrong medication.

Because pills have different medical effects, getting the wrong medication can be extremely dangerous for a patient. For example, a patient at a CVS pharmacy in Budd Lake received the cholesterol drug pravastatin instead of metformin, the diabetes medication she was supposed to receive. An investigation into this matter revealed that the pharmacy mistakenly commingled different pills, which is how some patients received the wrong medication.

Unfortunately, the situation described above isn’t unique. Around the same time, other New Jersey pharmacies in Cherry Hill, Chatham, Scotch Plains, and Rahway also experienced dispensing errors that were similar in nature. Because of these errors, the Division of Consumer Affairs began an investigation and ultimately CVS paid for an education and enforcement campaign about prescription drug safety and abuse.

How Can Other Pharmacies Stop from Making the Same Mistakes?

In order to prevent these errors from occurring, other pharmacies need to:

  • Retrain employees
  • Enhance quality assurance measures
  • Provide closer monitoring
  • Visually inspect every pill before loading it into the machine
  • Only reload machines during specific “down times” to improve concentration and prevent errors
  • Give patients additional information about their medications
  • Provide color images of medications

Things can and do go wrong at pharmacies. If you have been harmed by a negligent pharmacy, please call the pharmacy error attorneys at Kennedy Hodges, L.LP. at 888-526-7616 to find out if you have a legal claim. You can also fill out the form on our website to receive a FREE copy of our report, How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Injuries Caused by Medication Errors.