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.

Comments (4)
  1. Lone Wolf says:

    I’m going to submit my stoy to Jodi Brooks if she’d have a listen. My situation made me so mad – – I vowed never to step into anoter Albertson’s Store &/or their Pharmacies, and I haven’t. I even changed Dr’s because I lost my trust as to whom was at fault. My Doc prescribed me a Nitro-BID .2% but he didn’t really go into details with me that it would be a “Compound Prescription” for this particular Ointment. I started having the most horrendous headaches I’ve EVER eccountered. I had a multitude of side-effects – – so I started reading more details about the Drug’s O.D. possibilities. What makes me mad at myself I didn’t read those in detail, UNTIL this happened. Called me Doc, called my (Albertson’s) Pharmacist. He then conferenced me in with my Dr. & admitted that he gave me 2%, not .2% that my Rx was written for. If you read it, me with High-Blood Pressure & on other Med’s, it was increasing the pressure inside my skull. One would think it could have killed me or caused a SERIOS brain injury. Needless to see WE MUST be our own health care police. The pharmacist is lucky I didn’t sue his *** off, because he ADMITTED that he’d prescribed me 10 x’s the amount that my Dr. presribed, with not so much as an apology. I still wish I had grounds for a law-suit. But I let it go, I’m an idiot for being far to nice. PATIENTS BEWARE!

    1. Lone Wolf says:

      Please excuse my typos. I most certainly should not have made my initial comment here, whilst being so tired.

      Be SAFE, Be WELL & PEACE To ALL. . .

      -Lone Wolf

  2. Cynthia Swan says:

    Thank you for reporting on this issue.

    There are two more issues that I would love to see you address:

    1. Pharmacy support in the over-medication and conflicting drug effects on Seniors
    who are often taking many more medications than necessary, often with conflicting effects. I know there is a “brown bag” service that helps with this, however, ….

    2. and the issue with generic medications often required by insurance. Since generic drugs have to have at least one molecule difference from the original patented “brand name” drug, the effects can be more negative than helpful. Also, the supposedly inert ingredients of the carrier for the drug are definitely not universal, the same. For example, I take Zoloft with good response. Switching to Serrtraline, the generic combination produced by Camber (and preferred by King Soopers in their high volume negotiated reduced wholesale price thru some sort of distributor) causes me to go into respiratory distress, with asthma-like symptoms, coughing, etc.) NOW, each time I purchase a refill, I need to ask specifically for the Serrtraline manufactured by Greenstone. King Soopers has been good about responding to this, for me and what I understand to be a number of other customers. I have not respiratory distress when taking Greenstone’s product.

    The reminder would be that while one manufacturer’s product can cause problems, the customer should not reject the Serrtraline outright. Instead, side-effects may be caused by the slight adjustment of the patented formula or the ingredients of the carrier.

    With so many people on medication, with the rate of asthma increasing dramatically, this might be another opportunity for customers and patients to become much more proactive around their health, and learn to become informed and negotiate with pharmacies and the medical community.

    Good work. Keep going with this story. I think it is a deeper problem with the system than how pharmacists monitor quality control.

    Thanks again for reporting on more than “one more shooting in Aurora.”

  3. BoomerRkid says:

    1. Retail pharmacists work 12 hours shifts, and it is not uncommon for them to work 7 or more days in a row. Fatigue is a huge factor in pharmacy errors. Do airline pilots work 84 hour weeks?
    2. Most pharmacies rely on Technicians to process and fill prescriptions. In most states the Technician MUST be TRAINED and Certified. Colorado is one of 7 states and DC that do NOT require formal training to be a Tech. Someone hired as a front-end cashier and has no pharmacy knowledge at all can work behind the pharmacy counter in Colorado! Hell, even Guam and Puerto Rico require Technicians to be trained! Letting untrained, uncertified people work behind the pharmacy counter is a prescription error waiting to happen.

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