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    High-Alert Medications

    The safeguards that you should put in place to reduce risks.


    Pharmacists—like all other health-care professionals—fear the same horrible scenario: the wrong drug is given to a patient, or the wrong dosage of the drug, or to the wrong patient altogether. They know full well that drug errors like these can lead to severe illness and even death.

    Table 1In one of the most severe examples of a pharmacy drug error, Eric Cropp, Supervising Pharmacist at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in 2009. A tech working under him prepared the wrong chemotherapy drug dosage, resulting in the death of a two-year-old child. Cropp was sentenced to six months in prison and lost his pharmacy license.

    That case, along with significantly enhanced education and open communication about medication errors, has led to heightened awareness about preventing mistakes before they occur. 

    Related article: Self-Assessment Tool Can Help Improve Medication Safety

    The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has been instrumental in bringing medication errors—in both hospital and retail settings—to the forefront. The organization has urged pharmaceutical manufacturers to make changes when drug names, delivery systems, and dosages are problematic for nurses, physicians, and pharmacists.

    Pharmacies and health systems are more diligent than ever about preventing medication errors, despite the ever-increasing workload on pharmacists.

    Chain drug stores understand this. Walgreens officials said it has played an active and leading role in improving pharmacy quality and safety. 

    “Our pharmacy quality initiatives include numerous safety checks in each step of our multistep prescription filling process that helps to reduce the chance of human error,” said Tasha Polster, RPh, Vice President, Pharmacy Quality, Compliance, and Patient Safety at Walgreens.

    Polster told Drug Topics that medications that are considered high risk because of potential drug interactions, side effects, or dosing considerations are identified and have safety restrictions and notifications that require pharmacist intervention prior to dispensing the prescription.

    Christine Blank
    Contributing Editor Christine Blank is a freelance writer based in Florida.


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