Pharmacies Cited For Potentially Deadly Errors


pharmacyWhen you pick up your prescriptions, how do you know it’s the right medication? We uncovered hundreds of prescription errors committed by local pharmacists and they could have deadly results. CBS station KCBS-TV’s Investigative Reporter David Goldstein has the story. “There was a pool of blood on the corner, so I’m Guessing I was laying there and it was dripping from my face. I could have died. Without a doubt in my mind. I thank god that I didn’t. It’s such a helpless feeling to not have any control. It’s really hard. It’s frightening.” Kory Shahani nearly died from pills prescribed to keep his epilepsy under control. But a pharmacist mislabeled the dosage on the bottle.

He blacked out, hit his head and woke up in a pool of blood.

“If you make a major mistake like that, why should you still have your license? I mean, the chances are you’re going to make another one,” Shahani said.

But we found hundreds of pharmacists over the past two years still working after being cited for prescription errors. Perhaps at your local pharmacy.

These citations aren’t readily available to the public. They’re not posted in the pharmacies or on any Web site. KCBS-TV obtained the citations from the state and discovered pharmacists written up for what is called “variation from prescription” — filling your bottle with the wrong medication.

Like a citation received when the anti-depressant Anafranil was mistakenly dispensed instead of Fosinopril, a heart medication. The pharmacy was cited and fined. There is no mention of what happened to the patient, but it could have been a deadly mistake.

“Getting this medication could potentially worsen someone’s heart rhythm and potentially cause death.”

Nationwide more than 51 million prescription errors are made each year, according to a recent study by Auburn University. Locally it shows Los Angeles ranking second in the nation in mistakes behind Dallas-Fort Worth.

“Just pushing, pushing, quicker, quicker,” retired pharmacy technician Luz Bacio said.

Bacio says one of the reasons for errors is the push to fill prescriptions.

“I think staff is trying to do too much, too fast, too quickly and not paying attention,” Bacio said.

Of course no one wants to make an error. But when it does occur, we’ve found pharmacists aren’t required to report mistakes to the state.

These citations were issued only after consumers filed a complaint, which means there are many more out there according to Jack Raber, a pharmacist and expert witness in pharmacy error lawsuits.

David Goldstein: “Do you think errors are unreported?”

Jack Raber: “I think they’re unreported.”

But even in the ones that are reported, we have found that most pharmacists received only a slap on the wrist. No suspensions. No loss of license. Still on the job.

David Goldstein: “In some of the cases or depositions you’ve worked on, do you ever read this stuff and say this person shouldn’t be a pharmacist?”

Jack Raber: “All the time. All the time. I would hope the board would bring the pharmacist in, hold a hearing and determine whether they have the temperament to be a pharmacist.”

David Goldstein: “But that doesn’t happen?”

Jack Raber: “Doesn’t happen. It’s very unfortunate.”

The state pharmacy board says they’re doing all they can. They claim out of 370 million prescriptions filled each year in California — errors are few. But even that’s too much.

“There is no such thing as a safe number of errors. We don’t want any prescription errors to occur in any of our pharmacies.”

But they do and in Kory Shahani’s case, it could have been deadly.

“They make a huge error like that, that affects someone’s life. I’m lucky that nothing serious happened to me. But there are people out there with worse conditions that are relying on them. It could have happened a lot worse than what happened with me,” Shahani said.

{CBS Broadcasting/Noam Newscenter}