I-Team: Experts believe new bill will lead to more pharmacy mistakes

Woman says wrong dose harmed her baby

Nearly a million prescriptions a day are filled by retail pharmacies in Florida, the third most in the nation.

As the number of prescriptions increases, so does the number of pharmacy errors.

Some experts are saying that a new proposed law could make the problem even bigger.

Just before Thanksgiving, 9-week-old, 9 pound Julian Cameron was diagnosed with RSV.

"I've never seen a baby so sick. He would just cough and cough and gasped for air," said Julian's mother Anna Cameron.

Julian was prescribed Albuterol by his doctor.

Cameron picked the medicine up from her pharmacy, took it home and gave her son the dose listed on the label.

"I could tell he was just really jittery, antsy, hyper and his heart was beating really fast," Cameron said.

She repeated the process as prescribed.

The next day, her pediatrician ordered a refill, then the pharmacy called, telling her to stop giving it to him.

"It's the wrong dosage. It's the wrong instructions. How many had i given him? Because it could be bad," Cameron said.

Julian had received four times the correct dose, which was potentially lethal over time.

"If you've ever worked in a pharmacy, you've made an error," said Pharmacist Bob Parrado.

Parrado retired as a retail pharmacist and now is a consultant.

He served nine years on the Florida board of pharmacy and is past president of the Florida Pharmacy Association.

"I've seen statistics where 99.91 percent of the prescriptions filled in the United States are correct, but what about that .09? That's 100 percent of you, if it was one of yours," Parrado said.

Since more than 235 million prescriptions are written in Florida each year, or one prescription a month for every man, woman and child, a 0.09 percent error rate would equate to nearly 212,000 thousand prescribing errors a year here, or more than 580 mistakes a day.

"There's a lot of errors made where complaints are never filed. They're handled right in the pharmacy," said Parrado.

And Parrado says a lot of those issues involve prescriptions filled by pharmacy technicians, who have only a fraction of the training required of pharmacists, but are allowed to perform almost all of the tasks.

Parrado says they make mistakes often.

"Unfortunately, a few times a day, once or twice a day," he said.

Some pharmacies fill as many as 500 prescriptions a day, with a single pharmacist signing off on all of them.

But the I-Team has discovered proposed state legislation could increase that workload by doubling the number of pharmacy techs allowed per pharmacist from three to six.

"They should be looking at the safety of the patient," said Parrado, who knows from personal experience.

"My wife had heart surgery and she was given the wrong prescriptions at discharge. They had the wrong patient. And if she would have taken those medicines, she would have died," he said.

"In that kind of setting where you have to be so responsible for another human being, there should be double checks, triple checks," said Cameron.

The I-Team contacted the pharmacy, which said it fully investigated what happened and is making every effort to prevent the error from happening again.

But she wants to remind others to double and triple check their prescriptions before taking them home.

"I couldn't imagine the loss of a child for anyone," Cameron said.

The I-Team tried to reach the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Denise Grimsley, for several days but didn't hear back from her.

We heard from a retail pharmacy chain that supports the bill, saying it would allow pharmacists to spend more time with patients and to provide more services.

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