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Pharmacy Negligence Debate Revived after Chicago Investigative Report Reveals Flaws

In the last post, this blog discussed a Chicago Tribune investigation that uncovered problems with filling prescriptions in pharmacies throughout the Chicagoland area. A reporter sought to have two prescriptions filled at more than 250 area pharmacies. The common medications are known to interact with each other, producing severe muscle breakdown in the human body.

This is no minor issue, as the effect of the harm from the drug interaction could be fatal. Roughly 52 percent of the pharmacies filled the prescriptions without even providing the reporter with any warnings of the potential harm that the combination of the drugs could produce.

Officials, Including Senator Dick Durbin, Speak Up

The story gained national attention -- including calls for reform at the state and national levels to better protect consumers from medication errors, according to the Chicago Tribune. Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, says that each state should pass stronger laws to ensure that pharmacists counsel patients when filling their prescriptions.

Currently, Illinois law only requires that pharmacists offer to counsel a consumer; the law does not mandate counseling. The current state of the law frequently results in the pharmacist simply asking the consumer if she or he has any questions about the prescription.

Tougher Pharmacy Laws Needed to Protect Consumers

Mr. Catizone wants state to enact laws that require pharmacy errors to be publicly disclosed. He believes that any potential error should be reported to the relevant state board of pharmacy, and if the board determines that an error occurred, the information should be made public. He is also asking for regulators and lawmakers to examine whether pharmacies are properly staffed -- suggesting workload and staffing issues may be a source of pharmacy errors.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois weighed in saying that in today's technological age we should have national policies to better protect consumers. He suggests that pharmacists should have the ability to "wave off prescriptions that are dangerous to customers," according to the newspaper report.

Drug interactions and the potential side effects that a prescription may have are known safety concerns, but little has been done to protect consumers, according to the recent investigative reports. Despite awareness of the problem in the industry, little work has been done to reduce or eliminate the potential for dangerous drug combinations to reach consumers.

Pharmacy Chains Say They will try to do Better

At least three pharmacy chains that serve the Chicago area have stated that they would look into their policies with the intent of improving consumer safety, according to the Chicago Tribune. The recent report has caused a few officials to reopen the public debate concerning regulatory oversight. Senator Durban wants to know more about how the law can protect patients.

Many patients have more than one doctor -- pharmacies can serve as another layer of protection as many pharmacists see prescriptions from general practitioners and specialists, who may not be communicating with each other - leaving it up to the patient to remember every medication. Pharmacists and the databases associated the drug industry can be a more centralized source of protection for consumers.

It is important to note that, while the recent study has raised awareness of a problem that has existed for some time, the current state of the law provides recourse for consumers who have been harmed by the negligence of doctors or pharmacists. If you or a loved one has suffered medical harm due to the effects of an improper combination of drugs, a pharmacy negligence lawyer can help you to understand your rights and to hold wrongdoers accountable for their negligence.

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