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Pharmacy Errors on the Rise in New Jersey and Philadelphia

June 19th, 2014

The news media has been paying increasing attention to the perils represented by pharmaceutical errors. When pharmacies make mistakes in dispensing medications, patients’ lives and wellbeing are put at risk. The consequences of pharmaceutical errors can be devastating.

There are a number of reasons that pharmaceutical errors take place. The general consensus is that the biggest part of the problem lies in understaffing on the part of large chain store pharmacies in the pursuit of increased profits. The problem has become so rampant that pharmacists working for these chains have actually filed whistleblower lawsuits to call attention to the problem.

According to one pharmacist that filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his former employer, large chain pharmacy, pharmacists have been put under tremendous pressure by the big pharmaceutical chains to work faster and meet unrealistic, unsafe deadlines, all while working with smaller and less qualified staff.

“I was concerned we were going to kill somebody,” the pharmacist told the news media after thirty years of service with the large chain pharmacy store.   “Everything was being gauged, was being checked. Time constraints, 22 seconds to answer a phone. You were getting 15 minutes to fill a prescription. “ Another pharmacist told reporters that the unrealistic work speed requirements were causing at least one mistake a day, with most not being realized until the prescription gets called in for a refill.

The productivity standards that this whistleblowing pharmacists says his former employer has put into place has to do with time, not with quality control. Items such as the number of flu shots administered and the time it takes to fill a prescription are what is stressed.  According to the second pharmacist, who chose to keep his identity concealed, “Rushing through them, you’re going to miss stuff. You know, you miss one word in the directions and that can change something drastically.” One pharmacist refers to the problem in even more strident terms. “It’s McPharmacy. You know, get it done as quickly as you possibly can. And that becomes scary after a time.”

It is particularly scary for the patients on the receiving end of the incorrect medications. One woman recently reported having been provided with potassium chloride rather than the potassium citrate that she had been prescribed. When she asked the pharmacy manager about the difference, she was told, “Potassium is potassium.” Not satisfied with that answer she sought another opinion and was told that the mistake could have been fatal.

Though these mistakes continue to be made, little is being done to effect change. Government agencies are not able to adequately gauge the impact or number of mistakes being made because large pharmaceutical chains are not willing to provide them with data as to the number of mistakes being made.

Perhaps the most effective way of sending the message to profit-driven pharmacies is to continue to hold them accountable for these mistakes by filing pharmacy lawsuits. Unfortunately, many innocent victims of these mistakes will continue to be harmed.

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Gavin P. Lentz, Esq.
Bochetto & Lentz

Gavin Lentz (right) was selected as a "Super Lawyer" for 2006-2009 and 2010-2015 in New Jersey by Philadelphia Magazine. He has also been selected as a "Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and the Legal Intelligencer in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 - 2015.

On September 16, 2002 Mr. Lentz was selected as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer.

He has made many television appearances, including on Fox News, The Today Show, Inside Edition, and The Phil Donahue Show.

Mr. Lentz is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

As a former prosecutor, he knows how to aggressively go after large pharmacy chains to prove the facts necessary to protect your loved one's rights.

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