During my working career I was very aware of my primary pharmacist responsibility: Provide the right medication, the right dosage at the right time by the right route to the right patient for those communities that I served. These are commonly referred to as the 5 Rights of Drug Administration.

A recent New York Times article in January 2020 highlighted how overworked pharmacists working for the major national pharmacy chains CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens have endangered patients by committing fatal errors when filling and dispensing prescriptions.

The issues contributing to the errors in these working environments are long standing problems stemming from parent corporations wanting the pharmacies to achieve unreasonable performance metrics at the expense of both employee and patient safety.

These workplaces are typically understaffed and pharmacists are made to fill prescriptions, administer vaccines, answer phones, counsel patients while calling doctors and insurance companies.

These types of conditions are terrible under normal circumstances. I take issue with the corporate philosophy which pays so little attention to well-being of their employees and the patients they tirelessly serve for the sake of profit.

When you add in the current pandemic, and that pharmacists are working without the proper PPE in many cases, the issues become more protracted. These dedicated professionals and their ancillary staff are definitely front line health care workers. This does not get mentioned enough in the COVID-19 stories.

The physicians and nurses taking care of the active COVID cases have my undying gratitude for their sacrifice and bravery under the most difficult conditions humanity has ever faced. However, consider this as well……for each patient suffering from this horrendous scourge, there are as many or more who have chronic conditions who need their medications to maintain their health on a regular basis.

Pharmacists are there daily to meet this critical need.

While many who read this may think it is a mic dropping diatribe in the midst of the current chaos, that is not the case.

Whenever my family and I patronize a local restaurant for a take out meal, or we receive a contactless delivery, we always make an effort to thank the restaurant personnel and the drivers dropping off our packages.

So….the next time you go to the pharmacy to pick up your medications offer a “Thank You” to the man or woman behind the counter and the other people serving you during your visit. That small gesture will ensure you get the best service they have to offer now and in the future.

Finally, the tips below will assist in avoiding pharmacist medication errors during your trip to the pharmacy.

  • Check and make sure any patient and prescription information stapled to the outside of the bag is correct and identical to that which appears on the prescription label in the bag.
  • If picking up a refill, verify the color, shape and size of the tablet are the same as the last prescription. If different, check with the pharmacist to determine if the fill is correct or the reason for any change.
  • Check to see if the medication description on the label (i.e white oval tablet imprinted with the number 1234.) matches the appearance of the contents inside the bottle. If not, talk with the pharmacist.
  • If you detect anything that does not appear or feel correct, alert the pharmacist. 

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