Today’s New York Times has a chilling article by Jane E. Brody, detailing a pharmacy error that ended the independence of a previously healthy elderly woman. The pharmacy gave her methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug that suppresses the immune system, instead of her glaucoma drug, methazolamide. The woman took the wrong pills for a month, with a catastrophic result. She ended up in a coma and emerged no longer able to care for herself. The drug error ruined the final years of her life.
The article goes on to state what I have posted on this blog site a number of times – medication errors continue to harm well over 1 million Americans each year and cause billions of dollars of economic loss. Despite a decade-old medication error reduction campaign, doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies, continue to be plagued by a lack of uniform safety procedures and inadequate policing of safe practices. The author, Ms. Brody, recommends steps that individuals should take to protect themselves – such as being vigilant for pills that do not look like the same prescription taken previously, asking questions of the doctor or pharmacist until satisfied, and knowing exactly all the medications one is taking, and being sure that the prescribing doctor has that information. Ultimately, though, only the medical and pharmacy professions and the pharmaceutical industry, will be able to achieve substantial success in reducing medication errors.