Articles Posted in Medication Errors

Earlier this month, a court found that pharmacists have a duty to retain medication returned to the pharmacy by a patient if the medication was returned as a result of a potential pharmacy error. The court in the case of Burton v. Walgreen Corporation held that the pharmacy should keep the returned medication because it may be relevant to an upcoming civil lawsuit, and a failure to preserve the potential evidence may result in court sanctions for the spoliation of evidence.

The Facts Giving Rise to the Lawsuit

According to a summary of the court’s opinion, Walters was prescribed blood pressure medication by his physician. Upon taking the prescription to a local Walgreen’s pharmacy, he was provided a single vial of medication. He didn’t realize it at the time, but there were two types of pills in the vial, his prescribed blood pressure medication as well as lithium pills.

Walters took the medication as directed when he got home. As it turns out, he took five doses of the lithium pills before his wife noticed that there were two different types of pills in the vial. She took the medication back to the pharmacy to confirm that this was a mistake. The pharmacist on duty told her that the lithium pills were given to her husband in error, and he kept the medication. The pharmacist followed the company’s written protocol, quarantining the medication and then eventually destroying it.

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Whenever someone takes a prescription medication they receive from their doctor to a pharmacy, they trust that the medication provided to them is exactly what the doctor ordered. However, that is not always the case. Pharmacy errors are shockingly common across the United States and vary in severity from those that are caught before the medication is ingested to those resulting in serious injury or even death in some cases.

The possibility of a pharmacy error resulting in serious injury or death depends on several variables. Two of the most important of those are what medication is mistakenly given to the patient and what medication the patient should have been prescribed. These two variables can explain most of the injuries that occur after a pharmacist’s mistake.

Whenever a person is given a medication that they were not prescribed, there is a chance that their body will not react well to the new and unprescribed medication. For example, a doctor has not evaluated the patient’s tolerance to that drug, and it is very possible that there could be an adverse reaction to the prescribed medication.

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