One-Third Of Consumers Experience Prescription Errors

Armen Hareyan's picture
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One-third of America's 225 million prescription-takers now report experiencing a prescription error or knowing someone who has, according to the just-released "Parata Prescription Safety 2008" national consumer survey, available along with valuable consumer prescription safety information at www.myprescriptionsafety.org .

Pharmacies That Automate Will Soon Dominate

More than half of American adults take at least one prescription daily; yet, increased prescription use has not been accompanied by increased consumer vigilance.

Consumers readily admit to choosing their pharmacies for speed and convenience, rather than for safe prescription practices, "Parata Prescription Safety 2008" reported. "Proximity to work or home" was cited as the number-one reason for choosing a pharmacy by half of survey respondents, followed by "pricing" at 23 percent. Interestingly, a pharmacy's use of "automated dispensing equipment," a proven strategy for reducing prescription errors, ranked last in importance, cited by just 2 percent of respondents.

"Today's environment is a prescription for disaster: too few pharmacists, too many prescriptions and a lack of awareness among consumers about their role in ensuring prescription safety," said Ken Farbstein, a medication safety expert and managing principal of Boston-based Melior Consulting.

A Life-Saving Question No One is Asking

"It's a simple and potentially life-saving question every pharmacy customer should be asking: 'Does this pharmacy use automation technology?'" Farbstein said. "Every pharmacy should be evaluating technology as part of their strategy to reduce errors. Automation processes prescriptions more accurately and at faster speeds, freeing pharmacists and technicians to focus on answering questions and providing the patient care that is key to solving the emerging prescription error crisis."

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Consumers decisively ranked pharmacists (49 percent) over doctors (15 percent) as principally responsible for ensuring their prescriptions are accurate, the survey found. While 91 percent of consumers asked could name the doctors who wrote their last prescriptions, only 36 percent could name the pharmacists who filled them.

Further, the vast majority of prescription-takers (80 percent) spend less than two minutes speaking to their pharmacists when they pick up their medications, and almost half (45 percent) don't talk to them at all.

More and More People ...

As Americans age in good health, supported by the latest medication innovations, and the country prepares to sustain a generation of aging Baby Boomers, the number of people taking multiple prescriptions will only increase. The estimated number of prescriptions filled in the United States exceeded 4 billion in 2007, compared to 2.6 billion just 10 years ago, and is still on the rise.

"People think nothing of waiting an hour to spend 10 minutes with their doctors, while at the pharmacy their focus is on speed. Yet, spending that same 10 minutes with their pharmacists can literally save lives," said Tom Rhoads, executive vice president of Parata Systems, makers of automated dispensing systems and other safety technology solutions for pharmacies. "Technology is the best way to move pharmacists from behind the counter to spend more time with their patients, while ensuring the accuracy of the prescriptions being dispensed."

Taking More and More Medications ...

Hundreds of new drugs submitted to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) each year go to market within 24 hours of approval. In a 2008 report, the United States Pharmacopeia found 3,170 pairs of drugs that look alike or have similar, easily confused names. According to the Institute of Medicine, an estimated 1.5 million people are sickened, injured or die annually as a result of medication errors, and 88 percent of medication errors result from the wrong drug or dose.

... With Fewer Pharmacists to Fill Them

Pharmacy Manpower Project in 2001 predicted a national shortage of 157,000 pharmacists by 2020. Pharmacy school applications and graduation rates are declining while retirements from pharmacy careers are on the rise.

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