I took my dog, Snoopy, to the vet a few days before Christmas and got some bad news…cancer! He is 12 years old and has had a great life but I was still willing to do almost anything to extend his life.
Our dog, Snoopy, almost got the wrong prescription to treat his cancer because of misread handwriting. Mistakes like that can be avoided with automated data collection systems that use barcodes.
My vet said steroids would help him regain platelet counts in his blood and shrink the swelling he was experiencing. He gave me a prescription for a steroid called Imuran, which I could pick up at any local pharmacy.
Upon dropping off the prescription at my local CVS, I asked the pharmacist how much the prescription would cost. To my surprise he said $130. A little shocked at the price, I did not pick up the prescription that night, wanting to confirm with my vet that the prescription was correct.
The following day I called Walmart and found they had the same drug (Imuran) for only $15. I went back to CVS and confronted the pharmacist. What I learned next was shocking and scary. They had misread the prescription from my vet and had instead filled it for Januvia, a drug to improve blood sugar in people with Type 2 Diabetes.
So here’s my question: With all of the advancements in medicine and technology over the years, HOW COULD SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN? HOW OFTEN DOES THIS HAPPEN? If this had been a prescription for me, my wife, or my child and the co-pay was the typical $20-30, I would have never questioned the price or if the prescription was correct.
I did a little research and found the almost 800,000 people die every year because of prescription drug mistakes. There are 5 patient rights that we should all have, people and pets alike:
- Right Patient
- Right Medication
- Right Dose
- Right Time
- Right Method
These are easily and efficiently obtainable through the use of barcode technology. We are starting to see barcodes in hospitals, mainly to protect hospitals and doctors and nurses from mistakes, huge insurance premiums and large malpractice payouts.
Barcodes are reducing patient deaths that can result from medication errors. So why are we still allowing primary care physicians and veterinarians to give hand-written prescriptions? How many more have to die when the solution is so simple?
Some doctors will print out their prescriptions. That does reduce the chance of a pharmacist misreading the prescription scrawled in a doctor’s stereotypically bad handwriting. However, there’s still the chance of typing it into their system incorrectly.
Here’s an idea. All doctors and vets should print out their prescriptions with a 2D barcode on it. The 2D barcode will be encoded with the drug name, dosage, directions, refills, etc. The pharmacy needs to simply scan that 2D barcode to have all of the correct information instantly entered into their system. Pharmacies are already required to track their inventory with barcodes and scanners. This would be an extension of that system.
Snoopy is doing very well with the proper medication he was originally prescribed. Disaster averted…for now. So my message to you is to double and triple check that each prescription you get is what your doctor actually prescribed you. If you don’t, the result could be catastrophic.