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Prescription Errors

Prescription Error Lawyers in San Francisco

Pursuing Justice for Victims of Pharmacy Error in the Bay Area

We recently represented the family of a man who was the victim of a pharmacy error. He had dropped off several prescriptions at his local pharmacy for medications prescribed by his doctors. The pharmacy filled and dispensed these medications, but also dispensed an additional drug to him, one used to treat diabetes, a condition he did not have. The bottle containing this drug did not describe it as a drug for diabetes but simply instructed the patient to take two tablets twice a day with breakfast and dinner.

The man did not know that the drug dispensed to him was not prescribed for him. He had been given several medications and did not realize that he had been given an additional drug that his doctors had not prescribed. He followed the directions on the bottle and took the medication. Five days later, he died. The coroner concluded that the patient’s ingestion of the drug led to profound acute hypoglycemia, causing his death.

How Do Prescription Errors Happen?

How could such a tragedy happen? There are several possible factors. [1] Everyone, including pharmacists, can be stressed or distracted while on the job. Cost-control efforts on the part of pharmacies mean fewer pharmacists on duty, leading to increased workloads characterized by high volume and time pressures. Pharmacy stocking procedures can also lead to errors; stocking drugs by their manufacturer can place look-alike packages next to each other, while alphabetical arrangements put products with similar names. Even something as simple as the illegibility of a physician’s scrawled prescription can lead to errors.

Protecting Oneself from Prescription Errors

How can you protect yourself and your loved ones against prescription errors? Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you get your prescriptions filled:

  • Open the bag at the counter. Check to be sure you’ve got what you should have.
  • Don’t sign too quickly. The paper pushed across the counter—the one most of us sign automatically—is an agreement that you’ve gotten the information you need. Don’t sign it without checking first.
  • Read the label carefully. Read every word. Check the name of the drug and the directions for use. If the directions are unclear, ask the pharmacist to explain them. If the name on the label isn’t the name of your doctor, notify the pharmacist.
  • Look at the drug. If it’s a refill, does it look the same as the previous prescription? If not, ask the pharmacist.
  • Ask for printed information sheets. Ask the pharmacist if you need any additional counseling on the medication.

Following these tips will help protect you and your family. Since 2000, the FDA has received more than 95,000 reports of medication errors. Since these reports are voluntary, the number of actual medication errors is believed to be higher. “Medication errors usually occur because of multiple, complex factors," says Carol Holquist, R.Ph., Director of the Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “All parts of the health care system—including health professionals and patients—have a role to play in preventing medication errors.” [2]

Contact our San Francisco prescription error attorneys for the assistance that you need if you are facing injury from a prescription error!


[1] These factors, and the patient safety tips that follow, were published by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

[2] Statistics and quotes from “FDA 101: Medication Errors,” at www.fda.gov.

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