Medication errors are among the most frequent medical mistakes, harming about 1.5 million people every year. When patients who don’t experience adverse health effects are included, recent studies have estimated that more than 2.3 million prescription medication dispensing errors are made every year in pharmacies across the country.
Pharmacy Working Conditions Put Patients at Risk
Contributing to prescription errors are the working conditions in retail pharmacies. “I am a danger to the public” and “PLEASE HELP!” are not the kind of statements you expect to hear from someone who, quite literally, may hold your life in their hands. But pharmacists working for large chains like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Target are ringing alarm bells over risk to patient health.
As discussed in a recent New York Times article, pharmacists at these giant companies are desperately raising concerns about how overwork, understaffing, and unreasonable corporate demands are making it impossible for them to do their jobs safely and putting patients at risk.
Given how many prescriptions they fill, it is mostly inevitable that national pharmacy chains would be the source of a disproportionate number of catastrophic medication dispensing mistakes. CVS, alone, dispenses over a billion prescriptions each year and garners a quarter of all U.S. prescription revenue. But the sheer quantity of prescriptions these industry behemoths fill, thereby increasing the risk of mistakes and medical malpractice, is only part of the problem.
Pressure on Retail Pharmacists to Boost the Bottom Line
As with so many consumer safety issues, corporate greed, and the pressure companies put on their employees to maximize profits are the sources of many of the stressors that pharmacists believe make mistakes more likely. In survey after survey, pharmacists cite a toxic combination of too few pharmacists overloaded with too many tasks under immense pressure to fill prescriptions as quickly as possible. The performance metrics that chain pharmacies impose on their employees prioritize the number of transactions over the quality of patient care.
Knowing that their jobs and careers depend on meeting these metrics, it is no surprise that pharmacists feel immense pressure to achieve those goals. But these highly trained and knowledgeable professionals understand that these business pressures, policies, and priorities impede their abilities to fulfill their duties as they should. For example, a survey of 1,000 Missouri pharmacists revealed that 60 percent of respondents said they “agree” or “strongly agree” that they “feel pressured or intimidated to meet standards or metrics that may interfere with safe patient care.”
Examples of Pharmacist Distractions
Similarly, a comprehensive survey of Massachusetts pharmacists cited a host of ways that corporate pressures increase the likelihood and frequency of mistakes, including:
- Too many phone calls.
- Insufficient time to counsel patients.
- Overloaded and busy days.
- Too many customers.
- Lack of concentration.
- No one available for quality assurance.
- Staff shortages.
While pharmacists, physicians, and regulators all express their deep concerns and explore ways to attack the problem of avoidable pharmacy errors, patients need to remain vigilant when they receive their medications, check to ensure that they receive the right drugs at the correct dosage, and ask their pharmacists any questions they have about their prescriptions.
Speak With a Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today About Your Pharmacy Error Concerns
At Sommers Schwartz, we work closely with patients and their families to obtain compensation for injuries and losses caused by all forms of medical negligence, including pharmacy errors. Our seasoned team of attorneys, nurses, and experts will investigate your claim and determine the best course of action to obtain the best possible outcome.
Please contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Sommers Schwartz for a free consultation to review your case.