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Mistakes Made At Pharmacies Potentially Dangerous, But Not Rare

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Written By Jodi Brooks

DENVER (CBS4)- Mistakes made at Colorado pharmacies can put the health of those taking prescriptions in danger. While the number of cases can be shocking, mistakes are not rare.

“I can assure you that errors that happen are addressed immediately within the pharmacy department,” said pharmacist Mary Sue McAslan.

McAslan has worked for 31 years as a pharmacist in retail, hospitals and nursing homes. She says she has seen thousands of errors.

“There were on the shelf next to each other. One is a drug for depression and the other one is for gout,” said McAslan.

One of the biggest medication causes of medication errors in pharmacies is what’s called “look alike-sound alike” drugs.

“Celebrex for arthritis, Celexa for depression, Cerebryx for seizures,” said McAslan.

In Colorado, pharmacist managers are required to report only significant errors to the state. In 2009, according to DORA, 71 cases were initiated for dispensing errors. In 2010, there were 79 cases.

Those are cases against individual pharmacists. Colorado doesn’t track error rates on pharmacies.

“If we can fix the system, we do. And that’s generally about 95 percent of the time. There is that point where there is human error,” said McAslan.

She says customers must take an active role when picking up their medication.

  • Talk to the pharmacist and look inside the prescription bag.
  • When at the counter, examine the label information.
  • Open the bottle of medication, even if it’s a refill.
  • Make sure you are getting what your doctor prescribed.
  • Ask your doctor to write the reason why they are giving you the medication on the prescription.

“So instead of saying take one tablet by mouth every day, it will now say take one table every day by mouth for diabetes,” said McAslan.

Another tip for making sure you have the correct medication, remember the word NUTS.

  • What is the Name of the drug?
  • What is it Used for?
  • How should I Take it?
  • What are the Side effects?

Most of the video for this story was shot at Colorado Pharmacy on East Colfax. They wanted to work with CBS4 to help us educate the consumer. We have no reports of any recent errors at Colorado Pharmacy.

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