When you think about medical malpractice, you probably think about emergency room mistakes, surgical errors and primary doctors that miss the signs of a serious illness. You probably don’t think about your pharmacy. However, pharmacy errors are a huge source of problems for patients.

Why do pharmacy errors happen?

There are a couple of primary reasons that mistakes get made in a pharmacy. There’s a shortage of qualified pharmacists, so inexperienced pharmacists sometimes get pushed in to place far too quickly. Even then, pharmacists are very overworked: In a single, 12-hour shift, a pharmacist will fill around 300 to 450 prescriptions.

There’s also a problem with overreliance on automated systems that are designed to speed up the process. Pharmacists may focus on what the computer says and forget to engage in critical thinking.

What kind of errors happen in pharmacies?

There are a few mistakes that seem to happen over and over, including:

  • Filling the wrong medication: Drug names can be similar, and pharmacists sometimes pick up the wrong bottle. For example, “buspirone” may be confused for “bupropion.”
  • The right meds are filled at the wrong dosage: There’s a big difference between a 10 milligram dose and a .10 milligram dose — but it is easy to misread on a prescription.
  • Missed contraindications: A pharmacist may overlook the dangerous interaction between two different drugs in a patient’s chart. They cannot rely on the doctor to catch them.
  • Failure to warn about side-effects: Sometimes a drug has serious side-effects that patients need to know about. It’s the pharmacist’s job to make sure that happens.

What can you do to protect yourself?

As a patient, you should never take a pill unless you check the label to make sure that it is the right drug — and the right dose. If you have any doubts about what’s in your hand, wait until you can verify the medication with your pharmacy or doctor.

If a medication mistake does happen, you may have serious physical and financial losses. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you work to obtain fair compensation.