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Mistakes With Your Medicine

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Ginger Allen
Ginger is the Senior Investigative Reporter of the CB...
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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Before you pop another pill from the pharmacy, stop and compare the description on the insert to the medication you’ve been given. This simple step could save your life!

The CBS 11 I-team has learned the Texas Board of Pharmacy receives more than 200-complaints about dispensing errors every year–

An 84-year old was rushed to the hospital after the taking the wrong medication from a CVS pharmacy in Mansfield.

A mistake at a Grapevine pharmacy sent a 10-year-old to the emergency room. He couldn’t walk or stay awake.

A doctor discovered a five-week-old was struggling with health issues after getting the wrong drug at a Walgreen in Garland.

“I’m not diabetic! I have no diabetes, in my family, ” says Bennett Cunningham, a former CBS 11 employee. Cunningham contacted us after receiving a medicine for diabetes from a CVS Pharmacy in Dallas. Cunningham was supposed to get a tan, oval-shaped pill to treat his high cholesterol. Instead, a pharamists filled his prescription bottle with a three-month supply of round, blue pills used to treat diabetes.

“I could have taken this for another 90-days and become hypoglycemic. My body would have become damaged and I could have died.”

“That’s a pretty serious mistake, ” says Dr. Marv Shepherd, Director of the Pharmaceutical School at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Shepherd says Cunningham is one of the lucky ones. He says nationwide many people are dying from these mistakes “big time.”

An Institute for Safe Medication Practices manual states “a typical pharmacy…may generate up to two clinically significant prescriptions errors every week.”

Doctor Shepherd says part of the problem is more people, than ever before, are getting prescriptions. This means pharmacies are busier than ever.

But, he says, the number one problem is bad handwriting.

Studies show actual prescriptions for drugs like “Avandia” for diabetes can be misinterpreted for “Coumadin” which is a blood thinner. When you look at the handwriting on tthe prescription, it is very hard to tell which word is written. They are very similar.

Another prescription for “Prevacid” was misinterpreted as “Prinivil.” And in one case, “6 U” was confused and the prescription was written for “60 units.”

One of the hundreds of disciplinary actions the CBS 11 I-team reviewed from the Texas Board of Pharmacy cites a pharmacist in Flower Mound at a Tom Thumb Pharmacy. He filled a Flomax prescription and included instructions to take it “every two-to-four hours.” The actual prescription was written as take “every 24-hours.” The patient got dizzy, nauseated and had low blood pressure.

Cunningham is thankful he checked his prescription before taking it. He’s angry the pharmacy did not perform the checks and balances meant to prevent mistakes.

CVS Caremark sent us the following statement:

“The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority and we have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to ensure prescription safety. We extended our sincere apologies to Mr. Cunningham for this incident. We corrected his prescription as soon as this was brought to our attention and we are cooperating with the Board of Pharmacy in its investigation of this matter. Prescription errors are a very rare occurrence, but if one does happen we fully investigate the incident to determine what happened in order to prevent it from occurring again. We are committed to continually improving quality measures to help ensure that prescriptions are dispensed safely and accurately.”

Dr. Shepherd says you should always ask the pharmacist if you have any questions. A consultation may detect an error. And, once you get home and open your medication, you should compare the shape, size, markings and color of your medication to the description on the insert attached to your prescriptions.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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