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How Pharmacies can Avoid Potentially Fatal Prescription Dispensing Errors

  • December 26, 2012
  • RPh on the Go

How Pharmacies can Avoid Potentially Fatal Prescription Dispensing Errors

Ultimately, it is the job of a physician to inform a patient’s pharmacy of any discontinued prescription or change in prescription that individual may be taking. However, there is still a vast amount of responsibility left with the pharmacy team to ensure that patients are not receiving medication that has been discontinued. Regardless of the reason for discontinuation, pharmacies should always check and double check their patient’s medication lists and be sure that none of them have been discontinued.

Oftentimes, a physician will take a patient off of a medication without informing their pharmacy of the change. Physicians’ offices and teams have many ways to get in touch with them regarding patient records. It is a pharmacist’s responsibility to maintain in contact with a physician and their team regarding any changes in a patient’s medication schedule. Patients with distinct changes to their medications will often be called in by the residing physician to the patient’s pharmacy; however, all staff should be aware of the possibility for physicians to discontinue part of a patient’s medicine regime without prior notification to the pharmacy. Pharmacists should always inquire to their patients if anything about their medication schedule has been changed before dispensing or filling any prescription.

Studies have been done that show pharmacists still continue to dispense discontinued medications in error. These trials have also shown that individuals receiving the discontinued medications are significantly more often people of color, currently receiving Medicaid benefits, on Medicare, or another minority. It is important for pharmacy teams to ensure they meet the needs of all members of their communities, and this includes taking extra time to ensure all patients are not dispensed improper or discontinued medication.

Discontinued medication notices are not electronically submitted through pharmacy records, and this can often lead to hassles and miscommunication. Pharmaceutical teams must always be aware of their patient’s histories and communicate as a team to ensure that discontinued medications are removed from inventory and not given to customers. Keeping communication channels open between suppliers, pharmacists, physicians, and patients is key to knowing if a medication has been discontinued and should no longer be prescribed. Another habit to keep in mind is keeping pharmacy personal and knowing your customers. Being aware of your client’s drug interactions, histories, allergies, and medical schedules is an important step in making sure that no medication errors occur.

Having a pharmacy that notices when prescriptions are discontinued is a vital asset to any community. Taking the time to be aware of medication trends and possible future discontinuation is a way for pharmacies to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to patient safety and script availability. Dispensing improper medication can lead to fatal consequences, and there is never a way to take back a mistake that could cost a patient’s life. A moment of double checking information can be a moment that potentially saves a client a night of uncomfortable side effects, a night in the hospital, or worse. Dispensing medication is the job of a pharmacy, but dispensing proper medication even more so.


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