PSM Board Member Dr. Marv Shepherd Speaks with CBS News About Pharmacy Errors

When CBS Dallas reported  on prescription fulfillment errors in Texas pharmacies, they reached out to The Partnership for Safe Medicine’s Board President, Dr. Marvin D. Shepherd  to discuss the prevention of dispensing errors.  Dr. Shepherd is Director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies and Chairman of the Pharmacy Administration Division at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy.  Dr. Shepherd encouraged patients to examine their medication when it is dispensed to insure that it is the correct prescription.

CBS Dallas shared the story of one of their former employees who was given by his pharmacist diabetes medication instead of the cholesterol medication he was supposed to receive. Fortunately he caught the error before becoming ill. Dr. Shepherd explained that Cunningham was fortunate that he didn’t become seriously ill from this kind of pharmacy fulfillment error.

CBS Dallas cited the Institute for Safe Medication Practices which states “a typical pharmacy…may generate up to two clinically significant prescriptions errors every week.”

Dr. Shepherd said that as more people utilize medication, more prescriptions are being filled than at any time previously. This means pharmacies are busier than ever. Said Dr. Shepherd, “More people than ever before are getting prescriptions and you tend to fill faster and then cut down on manpower, woman-power, [or] technician power, and that’s where you start to make errors.”

However, despite the volume increase the greatest issue for pharmacists is legibility. Dr. Shepherd warned, “The number one problem is bad handwriting.” This was borne out by evidence CBS shared which showed almost unreadable prescriptions.

As Dr. Shepherd told CBS, “You should always ask the pharmacist if you have any questions. A consultation may detect an error and once you get home and open your medication, you should compare the shape, size, markings and color of your medication to the description on the insert attached to your prescriptions.”

Dr. Shepherd is a noted researcher in the field of pharmacoeconomic studies. His recent research on grey market vendor activities and drug shortages in Texas was presented at the 2013 Interchange in Washington, DC on October 24.

By S. Imber