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California pharmacies are making millions of mistakes. They’re fighting to keep that secret

Sharri Shaw walked out of the CVS on Vermont Avenue in South Los Angeles in 2019 believing she had a prescription for the pain reliever acetaminophen.

Instead the bottle held a medicine to treat high blood pressure, a problem she did not have.

Shaw began taking the pills, not learning of the mistake until six days later when a CVS employee arrived at her home, according to a lawsuit she filed last year. The employee told her not to take the tablets, the lawsuit said, before leaving the correct prescription at her door. The mistake, she said, left her stunned.

Shaw’s experience is far from an isolated event. California pharmacies make an estimated 5 million errors every year, according to the state’s Board of Pharmacy.

Officials at the regulatory board say they can only estimate the number of errors because pharmacies are not required to report them.

Most of the mistakes that California officials have discovered, according to citations issued by the board and reviewed by The Times, occurred at chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, where a pharmacist may fill hundreds of prescriptions during a shift, while juggling other tasks such as giving vaccinations, calling doctors’ offices to confirm prescriptions and working the drive-through.

Christopher Adkins, a pharmacist who worked at CVS, and then at Vons pharmacies until March, said that management policies at the big chains have resulted in understaffed stores and overworked staff.

“At this point it’s completely unsafe,” he said.

Read full story

Source: Los Angeles Times, 5 September 2023


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