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Pharmacy errors happen all too regularly in the United States. Recently, a Texas mom sued Walgreen’s for a prescription that was filled incorrectly and resulted in the death of her daughter. Jadalyn Allen was a 6 year old girl who suffered from sickle cell anemia. She regularly took pain medication to help her with the pain associated with this disease. According to the paperwork filed in the lawsuit against Walgreen’s, the dose of morphine was 10 times higher than it was supposed to be. The pharmacy refused to take responsibility for the pharmacy error. Instead, they blamed the death on her blood disorder. According to the family’s attorney, Allen gave her daughter a single dose of the morphine solution, which was mixed at a dose of 20 milligrams per 1 milliliter, rather than the prescribed 20 milligrams per 10 milliliters. She died of morphine toxicity.
This isn’t the first lawsuit Walgreen’s has faced for pharmacy error. In 2010, a Florida appeals court upheld a 28.5 million dollar judgment in favor of a woman who suffered a stroke after taking blood thinners that were 10 times stronger than prescribed. This prescription was filled by a pharmacy technician. Many states have very low requirements for pharmacy techs. Many states don’t even require a high school diploma to become a pharmacy technician and dispense dangerous drugs. According to an ABC news report, the pharmacy technician who filled the blood thinner prescription worked for a movie theater, making popcorn, prior to being hired by Walgreens to dispense medicine.
Academic studies offer rough estimates of the incidents of pharmacy errors. A pharmacy that fills 250 prescriptions per day makes about 4 errors daily, according to a study posted by Auburn University researchers. A 2001 survey with more than 2,800 pharmacists by Texas Tech researchers found that 34% suggested that at least one of their patients per week was at risk for a mistake. According to the Auburn study, that would amount to 3.7 million each year based on the 2006 national prescription volume.
Corporate policies such as allowing or encouraging pharmacists to fill hundreds of prescriptions daily and rewarding fast work, can contribute to these errors. Large corporations are more concerned about an emphasis on speed and the reliance of technicians than accuracy. They provide financial bonuses to pharmacists for increasing prescription volumes per shift.
With the increasing profit pressures on pharmacies, these disturbing trends do not seem to be going away. In fact, several states have pending legislation to increase the ratio of pharmacy technicians to licensed pharmacists, giving much less supervision of these cheaper, untrained employees. Patient advocates warn that this will lead to increases in the numbers of pharmacy error tragedies. Patients should always double check their prescriptions and ask any questions of the licensed pharmacist on staff. If you have been injured due to pharmacy error and have questions, call the experienced attorneys at The O’Keefe Firm for a free consultation.