Lifewatch: Prescription errors

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

CHICAGO, IL (WECT) - Millions of Americans don't always get the correct medication when they go to the pharmacy.

In too many cases the wrong medication can end up in your medicine bottle.

Like any toddler, Jordan Woodson likes to play, and doesn't always like the medicine he gets for his ear infections.

"I just figured he's not going to get better because he's not taking the medicine," said Tiffani Woodson, Jordan's mother.

But, the Woodsons were thrilled that Jordan stubbornly refused his antibiotic the last time he was sick.

"When I got to the pharmacy, that's when they told me that they tried to call my house because basically they had found an error," said Tiffani.

There was a big mistake with the drug dosage.  The instructions on the label called for three times the prescribed amount, twice a day, for ten days.

"Never did it occur to us that the store, the pharmacist would make an error and put in the wrong dosage," said Tobari Woodson, Jordan's father.

Studies show that retail pharmacies are correct 98% of the time.

"When you consider that about four billion prescriptions are dispensed every year in the United States in retail pharmacies, you realize that's 68 million errors a year. So, it doesn't seem so good," said Pharmacy Professor Dr. Bruce Lambert.

Lambert is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He says the vast majority of errors don't harm patients, but that still leaves several million errors that can cause problems.

"Some of them will cause you mild discomfort but of course at the severe end of the spectrum they can even cause people to die," said Lambert.

The Woodsons vow to be more careful, and say it simply didn't occur to them a mistake like this was possible.

"Now I'm going to photocopy the prescription before I take it in and if I don't have time to do that, when I get there I will ask them for a photocopy before they fill it so I can match it up for myself," said Tiffani.

To prevent this from happening, keep a copy of your prescription and compare it to the medicine you actually get.

Wrong label information is the most common prescription error.  Double check the strength and dosage are what the doctor prescribed.