CVS Accidentally Gives You Leukemia Drugs, Sends You To Intensive Care For A Week

You should always check to make sure the medicines you get are the medicines you’re prescribed. Dorothy Enriquez learned this lesson the hard way when she began taking the leukemia drugs that CVS gave her instead of her actual prescription. Not only did the pharmacy give her the wrong drug, but at several times the recommended dose for someone who actually has leukemia.

She took the drugs because she thought she’d been given a generic for her normal prescription, but when she started feeling ill, she called CVS and asked them about the strange new drug. They told her it wasn’t a generic for her usual prescription, but they did offer to refill it for her. Finally, Dorothy looked up the drug on the internet. That’s when she found out it was a powerful chemotherapy drug.

Ms. Enriquez ended up in the hospital, and CVS ended up in Fox 5, New York’s “Hall of Shame.” Fox 5 went to the CVS with their camera crew and tried to interview the pharmacist who made the mistake. He wasn’t willing to talk, but they did notice that he was supervising more assistants than is allowed by law. When they asked him about the violation he smiled and answered, “You’re good!”

Shame, Shame, Shame: Medication Mistake [Fox 5]

Comments

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  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    When he said “You’re good!” did he wink and give a thumbs up?

    I could see someone here is going to blame the victim, but I could understand a customer getting an unfamiliar drug and thinking it was a generic. Good thing she looked it up online, albeit a little late.

  2. Mercaptopurine’s a hell of a drug.

  3. ptkdude says:

    And to top it all off, CVS now owns Caremark!

  4. AngryEwok says:

    “You’re good!” :)

    You’re fired! :)

  5. Raignn says:

    That is messed up! I’m not really sure what else to say other than that’s horrible.

  6. Seriously people, you pay money to get your drugs AND talk to the pharmacist. If ANYTHING is different, ask. Talk to the Pharmacist. Not the flunky, the Pharmacist. If he doesn’t have time, refuse the prescription, call HQ, send Ben an email, and he will then make time.

    Remember, the people giving you drugs are just that, people. They make mistakes, have lives/troubles of their own, maybe were confused. There are many things in place to make sure you get the right drugs. If you wouldn’t pick a strange pill off the street and pop it in your mouth, don’t do it when a guy in a white jacket gives it to you. It’s your health.

  7. WOW.

    Everybody (especially if you have kids) should have a copy of the big giant pill/drug book. It’s the one where you look up the drug and it has pictures of them and tells you the color and what should appear on the front and back of every pill, for every dosage, name-brand and generic.

    You can find it at any bookstore for like $10. When you get a new drug, CHECK IT AGAINST THE BOOK. And if you’re too lazy to do it for you (which I totally am), check your KIDS’ drugs against the book, because kids’ systems can’t handle what ours can!

  8. The Porkchop Express says:

    @AlteredBeast: They’re supposed to tell you if your drug is going to look different than usual. So that this doesn’t happen.

    I don’t want to blame her, but I wouldn’t take my vitamin if it all of a sudden looked different and there was nothing on the bottle telling me why.

    That CVS and pharmacist should burn for this though. Big mistake.

  9. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Lo-Pan: it would look different if there was a new maker or something like that.

  10. @Eyebrows McGee: Here’s one option: [www.amazon.com]

    Here’s another: [www.amazon.com]

  11. MPHinPgh says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: …although there tends (maybe erroneously) to be a level of confidence that you’re receiving the correct drug.

    I mean, it is their FRICKING JOB. Being human and having a life is NOT an excuse to do your job poorly, to the point of potentially killing someone.

  12. Zanorfes says:

    Can’t wait for the PR response. I’m sure they’ll be “taking it seriously”.

  13. puffyshirt says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: you could also use this:

    [www.drugs.com]

    “Worried about those capsules you found in your teenager’s room? Not sure about some of those leftover pills still in the bathroom cabinet? There’s a good chance that our Pill Identification Wizard can help you match size, shape, colour… then lead you to the detailed description in our drugs database.”

  14. @Eyebrows McGee: This wouldn’t have helped. The drug WAS the one which was in the bottle, so all the description would have matched. I wonder why she didn’t read the insert, which describes in horrific detail what the stuff is. I keep my inserts, and never throw them out. I could understand if the label was correct, and the pills were wrong, but in this case, the pills and the bottle matched, but not the prescription.

    @Lo-Pan: I agree. Especially if the name changed also. But I again wonder why she didn’t read the insert at least. Even if she didn’t ask the Pharmacist, she should have sat down and read the insert. Would have helped her more than the internet.

  15. basket548 says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    Don’t ever bother with the book:

    [www.drugs.com]

  16. @MPHinPgh: I understand that, but while not an excuse, it IS a cause of mistakes. I am in no way excusing whomever filled the prescription. But realize that they are just as fallable as you are. If you were supposed to trust them, or if they never made mistakes, there wouldn’t be the multi-tiered system in place that there is. In this case, the mistake was made in reading/entering in the prescription. Since the wrong drug was entered, all the safeguards on the pharmacy side worked as they were supposed to(showing the correct pill, describing it), but it didn’t help. BUT, one part is the insert they give you which describes the drug, and what it is used for. This should have alerted the patient, if it was read. Since the insert matched the drug, if it was read, it would have told the patient that this was a chemo drug, not one used to treat Thyroid problems. Like I said before, if you wouldn’t take a strange pill off the street and eat it, don’t take a strange pill from a pharmacist.

  17. forgottenpassword says:

    LAW-SUIT!!!!

    At least for hospital bills, time/wages lost, possible damage to health, punishment for screwing up SO BADLY & some extra just for the hell of it!

  18. Coelacanth says:

    Rite Aid seemed to take some action by making sure the pill bottle had an accurate description of its intended contents. If somebody put in the wrong drug, I bet it wouldn’t cover that instance.

    Several Walgreens and Duane Reades seem to have The Pill Book on the pharmacists counter as you’re paying for the prescription.

  19. MaxSmart32 says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Big difference. You wouldn’t expect a pill on the street to be something you are supposed to take.

    CVS is at fault.

    Get that through your heads. They screwed up, almost causing a fatality.

    CVS is at fault.

    The woman who recieved the drug took it in good faith. Let us all repeat here:

    CVS is at fault.

    Stop blaming the OP.

  20. tedyc03 says:

    While our access to information is at an all-time high, it’s still critical that pharmacists and pharmacy workers use all due care in filling prescriptions. If they can’t be careful enough to fill prescriptions with the right drugs, they shouldn’t be working in a pharmacy, period. People make mistakes, but some aren’t be entitled to them – doctors and pharmacists are some of those people.

  21. Thunderpants says:

    If only young George Bailey had been there to stop Mr. Gower from filling that prescription!

    On a serious note, as someone going through chemotherapy on purpose, I wouldn’t wish those drugs on my worst enemy. I hope that woman becomes a millionaire.

  22. MPHinPgh says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: To an extent, I guess I can agree, but for the majority of people (in my estimation, at least), the questioning generally stops at the time the prescription is written. I think most people will ask their doctor what the med is for, but once the pharmacy hands over the bottle of pills, the only real question is “how often do I have to take them?” I think most people have an expectation that they were given what the doctor ordered.

    Maybe that expectation is no longer valid now that big companies like CVS, etc hire pharmacists as though they were factory workers. It’s no longer really a profession, now it’s more “just a job”

    I dunno…I’ve never looked at the pills and questioned if they were the right drug. I probably will now.

  23. Techguy1138 says:

    Pharmacists are paid a lot of money. I remember in 1995 one of my highschool friends made 86k a year after 2 years of college in rural New York.

    They are paid to ensure that they properly dispense the proper drug in the correct dosage. If something looks weird like the doctor has crap hand writing the pharmacist is supposed to check out, the same as if you are giving a patient a chemotherapy drug that you haven’t seen them take before.

    That guy is PERSONALLY liable in this case, unless the law has changed in the last 15 years.

  24. termitehead says:

    I’m fairly sure CVS wanted to hire more pharmacists and the one on duty said “No thanks, I enjoy making less than most pharmacists and working 60 hours a week in a terribly under-staffed pharmacy.” Come on people! CVS does a TON of prescriptions and yet management continues to try to cut costs by reducing hours available for people to work. Sure the pharmacist made a mistake, it’s going to happen. Yes it sucks when it happens. I’m not saying he should be upbeat about it and I doubt he is. His remark “You’re good!” was probably the best way he could respond to a “NO SHIT I’M OVER-WORKED” comment from a FOX news crew. The CVS I work at has 1 pharmacist (at a time, 1 hour overlap at shift change) and 4-5 techs for a 700 script store. It’s pretty f***ing insane. Our pharmacists do an amazing job keeping up. Toss in the drive-thru and the most annoying phone-call notification system ever invented (except maybe electrocution), it’s not only busy and under-staffed, it’s also just a stressful place to work.

    Now I know I’m just making excuses for CVS… it really sucks this kind of thing happened and I don’t wish it on anyone. Mistakes are made all the time, it’s just not usually something that ends up with a person in the hospital. So many drugs have nearly identical names, some have identical bottles – literally identical except for drug name. Generic drugs are the worst offenders since the companies do not try to make unique packaging for each drug – they just use the same bottle for every drug. Then you have the technicians (that’s me) who have NO TRAINING before we get put to work filling prescriptions. We spend a few days going over customer service, inventory and the computer system but nothing about drugs. Step outside the pharmacy to the doctors and RN’s who are also insanely busy – they write crazy prescriptions all the time. Drugs that don’t exist anymore or never did, strengths that don’t exist, directions that make no sense (like tablets being put in the eye, or apply a suppository topically). Add in illegible handwriting (still pretty common even with computer printed scripts) and missing information (I’m still surprised when a doc forgets to sign, or put a DEA# on a controlled script) and you still only have half the problems that can happen. The other half is insurance which is its own nightmare world… Anyone who has ever heard the words “Prior Authorization” knows what I mean.

    Ok… now I’m ranting. Long story short, I’m very sorry to hear that this happened and I wish it hadn’t. But with the complex medical system that we have right now mistakes WILL happen. You can blame the pharmacist or the technician but generally all pharmacies are very busy. Patients (not customers, mind you) need to ask questions about their drugs. Call your pharmacist to ask about interactions, also call if a pill looks different than before. When you get a script from your doc, make them write it for a brand name (the pharmacy can still fill for a generic if the doc signs on the right line) so you can recognize and pronounce the drug name – it’s easier to ask for your refill of Zyrtec than to ask for Cetirizine and you’ll get the same thing (btw, this is now OTC! In both brand and generic). The easiest method is to just ask at pickup what medications you are getting. If it’s a new drug they should ask if you have any questions. The doctor can even write the prescription to include what it is for on the label. So if you take Concerta twice a day, it would say “Take 1 tablet twice a day for ADD” instead of just “Take 1 tablet twice a day”.

    A little side note – if you have a drug and don’t know what it is – you can call your local pharmacy and they can usually identify it for you. If they can’t (some don’t have the software) then you can call your poison control center to have it identified.

    K, that’s all for now.

  25. @maxforrest32: So if a pharmacist gave her a gun, and told her to shoot herself, she should just do it? I SAID the Pharmacist(The C in CVS doesn’t stand for Chung, so I’m guessing he isn’t the WHOLE company) made a mistake. BUT, they don’t give out all of those inserts for fun. They are meant to be read. They also make you sign a form saying you understand all about your drug. Perhaps the Pharmacist held a bottle of pills to her temple and made her sign it? She admitted noticing a difference, but didn’t bother to ask. The patient MUST bear some responsibility in cases like this. There are cases when they don’t. Those are cases where the pills have been tampered with. In those cases, ALL the safeguards wouldn’t help.

  26. snazzycarrot says:

    @tedyc03: It’s not a matter of entitlement. People just make mistakes, no matter how careful they are or how serious the repercussions of the mistake may be. Yes, CVS is at fault because their employee screwed up. CVS should be liable for some kind of recompense to the victim. And, I have to say, if I made a mistake like this and Fox 5 showed up with a camera crew at my work place I might not respond any better than the pharmacist did.

  27. CVS made a mistake and blame lies with them, however blame also lies with the customer. If my pills changed I would be asking why before leaving the store. Always read the insert it’s there for a reason

  28. basket548 says:

    @maxforrest32:

    Definitely agree that the PHARMACIST was at fault, not CVS. Now if it happens again soon at a CVS or improper conditions are found, then yeah, start blaming the firm.

    Until then, it is a personal error, not a corporate one and the individual should be punished.

  29. sysak says:

    I am friends with most of the pharmacists at my CVS. After I drop off a prescription, there is a a good chance I will get the “hey John, I put the generic in for you because it’s cheaper.” Because that’s what I always do. I trust them. Doesn’t change the fact that I always check my prescriptions, and look up all new drugs I am given. Mostly because I don’t trust my doctor (who can’t even remember what I am allergic to.) I feel the blame here is mutual. Everyone screwed up pretty bad, and it just happened to be a major screw up.

  30. @MPHinPgh: I stop reading my inserts after I get my first prescription from my Dr., get it filled, talk to the pharma, and confirm it’s the right drug. After that though, yes, I stop reading them as long as nothing changes. I have read what the drug is for, note if it matches what I am be treated for. I have asked my Dr. and my Pharmacist if it will interact w/anything else I take. BUT if my pill changes, you can bet I will be re-reading and asking questions. Drugs are nothing to mess with. There is a reason certain ones are handed out by Dr’s orders. Those are powerful little things, and shouldn’t be treated lightly.

  31. MissPeacock says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: I’ve *never* had to sign a form stating that I know what I’m being given when getting a prescription.

  32. BruinEric says:

    CVS is at fault. But its not wrong to take a personal reminder to be vigilant and know what drugs you are putting in one’s body. The two points are in no way mutually exclusive.

    Liability is with the CVS pharmacist. But protecting yourself is very important. I’ve had those pharmacy visits where the pharmacist wants to explain the medicine I am taking, but I don’t think that happens very often. Just that conversation alone could’ve saved this whole situation.

    What a heartbreaking messup, one loaded with factors that really show that this phramacist didn’t just slip up, but blew it totally. If only it had been some allergy medicine or something, not chemo. And then in a dose more than typical as well. Triple-whammy. I’m sure the bottle and the datasheet provided had bold type saying “This is a chemotherapy drug, dispose of properly.” At least the bottle in our home says this.

  33. snazzycarrot says:

    @basket548: But the pharmacist is a CVS employee. He is, in a sense, CVS. Who knows why the mistake was made, but it was made within CVS’s procedural/organizational structure. I am assuming that the mistake was inadvertant and not due to gross negligence (i.e., the pharmacist was drunk at the time). CVS needs to take responsibility for this publicly and in any dealings with the ‘outside world’. The pharmacists’s consequences for this need to be between CVS and the pharmacist.

  34. termitehead says:

    Looked at the script in the video and I definitely would have called to verify the script. Doc wrote for PTU (looks like PTLI, but whatever) 50mg. First off, abbreviatons==bad for scripts. Second the dose is crazy high: 5 tabs twice a day. PTU is Propylthiouracil which is for hyperthyroidism. Mercaptopurine (brand name = Purenithol) also comes in 50mg tablets but as stated in the story is for Leukemia.

    Someone should have called to verify. All I can say after seeing the actual script. Scripts like that are way too open for interpretation.

  35. Truthie says:

    It’s a stretch to compare a pharmacist dispensing medicine to someone giving you a gun and telling you to use it.

    A pharmacist is a licensed expert and is there both to physically dispense medicine and to act as a health care provider on the patient’s behalf. He or she is not just filling orders. The pharmacist has a professional duty to ensure the patient receives the correct medicine.

    A patient cannot be expected to know the difference between paclitaxel and paroxetene, but a pharmacist absolutely must and should make sure the patient does not receive the former when prescribed the latter.

  36. Shadowman615 says:

    It Dorothy’s own fault. Whenever you get a prescription, you should send a sample to a third-party lab for analysis to confirm you were given the correct dosage. It doesn’t even matter if the imprint, color, and size were all correct on the pill; the pill manufacturing equipment is designed and operated by *fallible humans.*

    In fact, this should apply to any product you buy and consume, not just pills. If you can’t be bothered to do this stuff, you deserve whatever you get.

  37. Sasha_Pie says:

    It is so important to always read those inserts that describe the type of pill and list all the side-effects of any new drug you take.

    People, even professionals, make mistakes! Doctors, lawyers, dentists, pharmacists, carpenters … it’s our responsibility to be as informed as we can.

    A somewhat relevant story: The last time I went to the dentist for some in-office surgery, he prescribed naproxen sodium for pain relief along with an antibiotic. When I got the prescriptions filled, I read the info for naproxen sodium and it said right under alternate names: “Aleve”. I was annoyed as there was a big bottle of Aleve already at my house. Why couldn’t he just ask?

    All that being said, I hope she sues and wins.

  38. @Shadowman615: To be honest thats what I would be doing if it was economically feasible.

  39. schiff says:

    This is less than a mile from my house. They opened up in what was a bowling alley a couple of years ago. This particular CVS moved from directly across the street into the new shopping plaza. They have always been sketchy…

  40. bohemian says:

    I had a close call with something like this. My doctor changed the dosage on one of my meds. The higher strength was a round peach colored pill. The pharmacist dumped on pill in the cap said see round peach pills, I thought nothing more and took them for three months. When I get a refill I notice they are different. I did some looking online and found out what I had been taking for three months luckily was a generic of the same drug. I was really lucky. The worst that happened was I felt crappy for three months because the generic actually doesn’t work as well as the brand one in this instance. This scared the crap out of me though, it could have been something far worse like what happened to the woman in the article.

    Drugs.com pill identifier is your friend. I double check everything now.
    [www.drugs.com]

    The overworking of pharmacists will only stop once people start suing the crap out of these companies. It has to be financially prudent for them to do the right thing. If they can kill a few people and still end up turning a profit they will keep having one overworked pharmacist with a fleet of ignorant flunkies doing the work.

  41. thelushie says:

    First off, I really hope she is ok. It is tragic this happened. You would also think a Pharmacist would know what they are doing.

    I would also like to give a little plug to your local Target Pharmacy. They put in the bottle label (with typeface big enough that even my mother can read it without her reading glasses) a nifty little pullout called the “Patient Info card” which is the patient info sheet’s highlights. Open it up and it has the pill description right there. If they were to give my mom the wrong medication, it probably would not match the description. Another reason to transfer to your Target pharmacy. (NO I am not an employee of Target…just a customer).

  42. basket548 says:

    @snazzycarrot:

    Great way of putting it – guess I neglected to focus on the reputational aspect of what happened. That’s certainly true, that employee does represent CVS. I guess what I was trying to say was that punishment should focus first and foremost on the individual, and THEN CVS, rather than the other way around.

  43. Gannoc says:

    I don’t think we should jump all over CVS for this. For all we know, the pharmacist was grieving over the death of his son by influenza, and we live in the universe where George Bailey was never born. Therefore, it is God’s fault.

  44. shepd says:

    http://www.drugs.com‘s pill identifier kind of sucks.

    Of the things at my desk at work:

    M 200 (translucent oval yellow tablet) – (Motrin Liquid Gels / 200 mg Ibuprofen) – Not found
    L113 (white oval tablet) – (equate Dairy Digestive / 3,000 Lactase Enzyme units) – Not found
    (no marking) (capsule with white powder) – ([can't remember the brand] Dairy Digestive / 9,000 Lactase Enzyme units)- Not found
    L478 (round flat tablets) – (equate calcium antacid / calcium carbonate 500 mg) – Not found

    0/4, yay!

    Now, mind you, apart from the Ibuprofen, it’d take a miracle to OD on any of this, but that doesn’t mean drugs.com’s idea that parents use the pill identifier to check your teen’s pill supply is a good idea. I’d hate to be “busted” because I’m lactose intolerant.

  45. NotATool says:

    She needs to sue CVS. Part of the problem here is CVS understaffing/overworking (i.e. more assistants than allowed by law is cheaper than scheduling a 2nd pharmacist). This will cause more mistakes. When CVS gets hit by the pricetag of those mistakes via lawsuits, it will then be in their best interest to staff their pharmacies properly.

    While this is not the OP’s fault, it still is important for people to check their prescriptions before taking their medicines. Pharmacists and pharmacy techs are people and people do make mistakes.

  46. @MissPeacock: You never have to sign the little screen, or have the pharmacist/tech ask you if you have any question? May I ask where you get your scripts filled?

    @Sasha_Pie: Was the dosage larger than the one at your home? Ibuprofen can be prescribed, and it’s usually a larger dose in a single pill than you can get OTC.

  47. @thelushie: Wouldn’t have worked in this case. The drug matched the bottle description b/c they filled the script w/ the wrong drug. One problem noted here is that in most of these cases, the people fail to read the inserts. I personally never read the little one that comes w/my Target bottle. That’s mostly due to the fact I usually read the big one because it has a lot more info. Also, as I said above, once I confirm the pill, and what it does, I usually don’t read them again unless my pills change. So even if the bottle itself had the description (most round bottles DO include it on their bottles, unlike Target, which uses the tab due to bottle shape), it wouldn’t have helped if no one read it.

  48. basket548 says:

    @Gannoc:

    We should bomb heaven.

  49. basket548 says:

    @shepd:

    I’m actually kinda surprised by that. When I ran my roommate’s little baggie of pills (don’t ask) through drugs.com, they all came up, even the Mexican Ritalin.

    Maybe it’s geared toward non-OTC pills?

  50. @shepd: Are those OTC or prescribed drugs? I think drugs.com is mostly prescribed drugs, and not OTC, as many might not fall under FDA coverage if they are supplements, so they don’t require the labeling/marking “real” drugs do.

  51. milk says:

    My mom was accidentally given schizophrenia medication, and she took it for a week before she realized her general f*ed up behavior and illness were related to her pills.

  52. cef21 says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Agree that reading the insert after feeling something was fishy would have been a good idea. Nobody reads the insert on a refill, though — no reason it should have changed since last time.

    If the facts are as presented, this sounds like an open-and-shut battery case for which CVS (or its insurer) will be paying a pretty penny.

  53. itsgene says:

    Kaiser Permanente here in Northern California takes some easy steps to ensure this doesn’t happen. They print out instructions for every prescription, and in those instructions AND on the bottle is a description of the medication, including shape, size, and color.
    If the bottle says “triangular pink pill with ZH embossed” and the pill inside is blue and square, you know you have a problem.

  54. Macroy says:

    @maxforrest32: Stop blaming the OP.

    You must be new here.

  55. azntg says:

    Lord that’s quite scary. There’s no substitute for checking the pills at the counter.

    I started to scrutinize the medicines more carefully after an incident at my local Rite Aid a few months ago. Was picking up the medicines for my dad to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Should’ve been 3 different pills, but somehow I saw the intern taking out 4 and the copay on the new med were a lot higher than usual. Needless to say, I questioned it.

    Asked my dad over the phone and the pharmacist-in-charge right after (he’s a great guy who my entire family has known since day one). Turns out that the 4th medicine was for treating Alzheimer’s and the label incorrectly had my dad’s name on it. No problems after that one-off incidents.

    But it was reminder that there’s a price to be paid for laziness (failing Organic Chemistry is another reminder for me)

  56. @itsgene: As said above, this would NOT have helped as the pills matched the bottle. The problem was the prescription didn’t match the script. Most pharmacies do the pill description thing, but it requires one important thing. Actually reading it.

  57. TangDrinker says:

    @basket548: Or maybe just search the free version of the real reference book libraries and hospitals use: the PDR.

    [www.pdrhealth.com]

  58. Arthur says:

    My pharmacy will put a little sticker on my pill bottle letting me know that that color and size of the pill had changed but is still the same medication. If your pills look different, without this sticker. Look the pill up. Not everyone has experienced a pill change like this, and do not know about the sticker. This is probably the case with Ms. Enriquez.

  59. the_wiggle says:

    seems there’s a bit of blame on both sides. granted most of it’s on the part of the pharmacy – especially with the attitude shown in the article.

    however, only a total fool takes anything without reading up on it 1st or at least reading the insert. that’s what it’s for. especially if the name & look are not as expected.

    and, lest we forget the prescribing party – make the script crystal clear & include what it’s for.

    love to see a standardized digital format for scripts some day soon.

  60. MissPeacock says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Walgreens. And no, they’ve never asked me to sign a screen or a piece of paper, even for a new prescription. They have asked if I have questions, but if you don’t know that you have the wrong prescription when you’re standing there, I don’t think you are going to ask to make sure that you don’t have leukemia meds in your hands.

    I agree; she could have read the insert, etc. But I have vastly more sympathy than blame for this woman.

  61. @MissPeacock: I always inspect my meds before I leave. Mostly b/c I take a class 2 controlled substance, and after you leave, it’s your word against theirs that they gave you what the bottle said they did(I need me speed), but it’s your right to, and you should use it. Most people don’t though b/c they don’t feel like it. The reason they ask you is to give you a chance. If you don’t utilize it, it’s not the Pharmacists fault.

    I too have more sympathy than blame, mostly b/c of what she went through. But it still doesn’t erase the fact that if she had been even slightly vigilant, she would have not had the problems she had. She shares the same responsibilities that a person who got sugar pills has. And I have stated this many times whenever stories like this show up. Unless they shove the pills down your throat, their responsibility ends as soon as you open the bottle, put the pill in your hand, pop it in your mouth, and swallow.

  62. mergatroy6 says:

    This is actually my local CVS. I’ve been using them for prescriptions for over 5 years. I’ve had no problems. I will admit though that Robert Chong, the guy on the video almost never explains what to expect if you are filling a new script. He, or one his techs, just hands it to you and swipes your credit card. The other pharmacist, John R., is great. He always hands you the bag, explains possible side effects and asks if you have any questions, even if it is a refill.

  63. @mergatroy6: You think Chong ever watches John, and after walking away from the customer looks at John, and goes “You’re good!”? Well, I should qualify that by using the past tense, “watched”.

  64. mergatroy6 says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Good point. I’ll have to remember to look for him next time I’m in there. If he is still there, that will be the last time I use that CVS.

  65. @mergatroy6: Nah, just say you saw him on tv. Or as you walk up, mutter to yourself you wonder why there’s a TV news van parked outside w/some guy with a weird mustache and microphone holding a bunch of papers. I bet he runs.

  66. Bix says:

    Don’t generics usually say “For [brand name]” under the generic name? My pharmacy does that…

  67. MaxSmart32 says:

    @basket548: @Git Em SteveDave: CVS is in the business of dispensing prescriptions. If they choose to cut corners by not hiring enough staff to handle the requirements, and don’t want to make a corporate change to that policy, then they should get out of that business. If they make this kind of mistake, then it is their fault.

    The anology to the gun is irrelevent, and ignorante. Of course handing someone a gun that is designed to injure and kill people is stupid. Handing someone a prescription they have had filled numerous times before and saying “here you go, take this” is completely different. The sole purpose of one is to kill and maim, the other is to help and cure.

    CVS f**ked in the end. I refuse to let a giant corporation blame one person.

    Maybe reading the Consumerist has jaded me, but big business has a responsibility to the people they serve, and I get tired of scapegoating and the like. Who knows the entire story.

    I need a nap. Goodnight.

  68. EllenRose says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: BUT, they don’t give out all of those inserts for fun. They are meant to be read. They also make you sign a form saying you understand all about your drug. Perhaps the Pharmacist held a bottle of pills to her temple and made her sign it? She admitted noticing a difference, but didn’t bother to ask. The patient MUST bear some responsibility in cases like this.

    Right. And you always read the fine print before you update your operating system. You read over the local laws every time you drive through a new state. You read the cooking directions on the can of beans, just in case they changed them.

    If we did all the things we should do, that’s all we would have time for. Get something more closely approximating ‘real’.

  69. Pro-Pain says:

    Like other posters have said it’s a wise idea to always check the internet before taking a new perscription to see what a pill should look like. I feel sorry for this person. Hope that CVS pharmacist gets FIRED.

  70. Serpephone says:

    Oh, shit! I can’t believe it! I have UC and my doc prescribed this drug for me… I took it for a while but the side effects made me soooo sick.

    I stopped taking the drug and went back to my 9-tabs-a-day Azulfidine.

    Bad, bad, pharmacy!!!

  71. @maxforrest32: Actually, one problem they cited was having too MANY people behind the counter.

    As to the gun analogy, look at the damage this little pill did. Possibly worse than a gun did.

    As to your example, you cite: “Handing someone a prescription they have had filled numerous times before and saying “here you go, take this” is completely different.” So if you are handed the same thing over and over, and then it changes all of a sudden, you should just blindly take it? How is that the complete fault of the Pharmacist? The patients are given a tremendous pool of resources through the laws enacted in their favor, and for their protection. Flagrantly disregarding them will eventually result in cases like this. Personal responsibility has to be included. There is only one urge/instinct above Self Preservation. If I am given a substance/item that can kill me if mis-handled, shouldn’t I use common sense? As I have said, YES, it is partly the person who filled the prescriptions fault, but it is ALSO partly the fault of the person who decided the safeguards and resources at their disposal weren’t needed/utilized.

  72. ClayS says:

    @Git Em SteveDave:
    The pharmacist bears full responsibility for this error; there is no doubt about it.

    What surprises me is that people are shocked that medical mistakes occur. There are thousands of significant errors made each year by doctors, pharmacists and nurses, despite procedures in place to reduce their likelihood of occuring.

    This is certainly very regrettable, but not all that uncommon.

  73. My neighbors are pharmacists, and we were discussing this story earlier. They agree that yes, the customer should have done this or that, but bottom line it’s the pharmacy’s fault for giving out the wrong prescription and the wrong dosage. Because they are so fearful of this happening to them, they check, double-check, and triple-check.

  74. @EllenRose: You’re right, I don’t always do those things. So when I update my OS, and ALL my data gets wiped, is it MS’s fault? Can I sue Bill Gates b/c I “didn’t have time to read the fine print”? If I cross the state line, and the speed limit signs change, are you saying I DON’T have to obey them, b/c they changed? If I switch cake mixes, and burn the cake b/c I used another cake’s cooking directions, it’s Betty Crockers fault? Or if I have a reaction to an ingredient that wasn’t in the other brand? Is that Betty’s fault also? Is this what’s “real” in your world? I’d like to see you get out of a speeding ticket in NY by saying that you SHOULD have read the speed limit signs, but you didn’t have the time, so you just obeyed NJ’s speed limit.

    In “my” world, when you are going to be ingesting something which is potent enough to be only handed out by licensed individuals, it behooves you to investigate what it is. If something which you normally take radically changes, then common sense would say, let’s see exactly what I am taking NOW. BUT, if you choose to ignore common sense, you should expect there to be a consequence.

  75. midniteslayr says:

    My question is, how much did the doctor’s handwriting play into it? I know that my doctor (and every doctor I have been too) has had notoriously BAD handwriting, and I would always be confused as to what I was given a slip of paper for. I can imagine that the lowly assistant saw it, and determined that it was one thing when it could have been something completely else.

    Other than that, I have to blame CVS or the pharmacist for not catching it.

  76. ClayS says:

    @midniteslayr:
    If the pharmacy cannot read the doctor’s handwriting, they need to call him. Being 99.9% sure isn’t good enough; 1 error per 1000 prescriptions is unacceptable in pharmacy.

  77. termitehead says:

    @ClayS: Errors happen all the time but it is usually little things like giving the wrong number of refills or having an incorrect script written date. I’m gonna assume you meant life-threatening errors like the one in the story.

  78. Jubilance22 says:

    USA Today recently did a long story on errors at the large pharmacy chains (Walgreen’s and CVS) and what they uncovered was disturbing. Most likely the prescription was filled by a tech with minimal training and/or no licensing, and then quickly checked by the pharmacist, if it was checked at all. The majority of the pharmacists at the large chain pharmacies are required by company policies to fill prescriptions at ridiculously high rates, and they are given staff that is poorly trained. Its CVS’s fault, most likely there will be a lawsuit, and most likely it will be settled out of court with a confidentiality agreement so that no one else will know just how much CVS and it staffed screwed up. They probably won’t even get reported to the state board, and even if they do, the state board will give them a slap on the wrist. Much more needs to be done when it comes to policing pharmacies and holding them accountable for their mistakes. This isn’t like when McDonald’s gives you a Big Mac instead of a Quarter Pounder, this is endangering lives.

  79. helloashley says:

    CVS is completely at fault. The reason why you get your Rx drugs from a pharmacist instead of a pharm tech is because they are to be highly trained to dispense pharmaceuticals. Every pharmacist is taught that giving the correct drugs to the correct person is of utmost importance. It’s on the pharmacist and the pharmacy that the pharmacist works in to build in a system of checks and measures so these accidents NEVER happen.

  80. Cerb says:

    Wow, if I was to do something like this I’d get sued and lose my medical license.

    /doesn’t actually have his license yet but is making a point
    //2 more years :(

  81. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Most pharmacies don’t dance around these issues. We had a script for saline solution for wound wash (why this has to be rx is beyond me). The pharmacist entered it into the computer as sterile water but filled it correctly the first time. The label had abbreviations and I had no idea what it said.

    We get it refilled, from the computer. The pharmacy label went over the label on the packaging, i still couldn’t see it. We had to travel and must be refrigerated after opening. The personalized label got wet allowing me to see the label on the bottle was orange instead of blue. I peeled it back and saw the difference.

    We had to buy sterile saline over the counter (much more expensive in aerosol containers to keep it sealed, but otherwise the same concentration. If it wouldn’t have cost an extra $200/mo for all the dressing changes it would have been preferable.) to get through the trip. I called the pharmacy and they were quite apologetic.

    Some of the strange things, Sterile saline is $11/qt, water is $18… The pharmacy ended up just refunding all the money we spent on both the water and over the counter saline.

  82. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    @AustinTXProgrammer:
    The pharmacist claimed to have self reported to the state on this incident.

  83. mattbrown says:

    This is ridiculous. I hope this woman and her family never have to work another day in their life.

  84. Nice Farkup.

    Every hear of the interweb? It has these things called links that can take your directly to the manufacturer’s website to view a nice digital photo of the product. Kinda of comes in handy from time to time.

  85. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t PTU the generic drug? Aren’t generic drugs basically the regular name for example a generic augmentin would be ampicillin + caluvanate? I really feel sorry for her, but come on the name of the drug your taking changes and you don’t ask why?

  86. CoenzymeQ says:

    I am pharmacy student and have been working in a pharmacy for 3 years and I stress to everyone to please double check if anything seems wrong about your prescription. Half the time when people call to check something about their medication, they say things like I don’t want to bother you, but I always stress they are doing the right thing by checking. It takes a minute for me to check and I would much rather double check something than have a patient take the wrong drug.
    I really wish pharmacies wouldn’t bag the medications up, but instead let the patient inspect their medications at the check out and then bag it up. It could really help to prevent problems like this.

  87. anonymouse23 says:

    That video was ridiculous. There was no need for the Faux News Reporter to be yelling the whole time. I work for CVS and they have a STRICT policy on not speaking to the media.

    There’s a lot of people to blame here. I know we like to take the consumer’s side all the time, but why would continue to take a pill for 2 weeks that caused those side effects that you never experienced before?

    Why would the doctor scribble the Script in such a way that a pharmacy technician could mistake what pill they were prescribing?

    Why would the Lead Pharmacy Technician (the person in the store responsible for writing the schedules in the pharmacy aka the person responsible for why you see 3 Techs to 1 Pharmacist) write the schedule that way?

    She’s still alive, bless her heart. Can we just admit there was fault all over instead of looking for a scapegoat to flame? Hopefully she learned, the pharmacist learned, the store learned, and the company as a whole learned.

  88. Rode2008 says:

    I once went to a CVS and asked for a pack of Carltons (a brand of cigarettes that I smoked at the time). The clerk mistakenly sold me a pack of Camels.

    Well, needless to say, there’s a big difference between smoking a low-tar Carlton and an unfiltered Camel. I was coughing the whole damned day. I smoked the whole pack of Camels, thinking that Carltons had changed their packaging.

    I often wonder if that pack of Camels caused the case of emphysema that I now have. I had been smoking Carltons for some 35+ years (a couple of packs a day) and never had the cough I got with the CVS mistake.

    I ought to sue CVS for providing me with the wrong brand of cigarettes.

  89. fjordtjie says:

    @Rode2008: don’t smoke

  90. Adam W says:

    OK, as a CVS employee I have to say something about this but this is by NO MEANS an official company statement and this is simply the opinion of one employee seeing the same things every other reader here has seen.

    First of all, in regards to the number of techs the pharmacist was supervising, that is a state law. Here in indiana, we have 3 techs working all the time as it is not against the law afaik.

    In regards to the drug mixup, whichever tech entered this into the system and the pharmacist probably should no longer be with the company. I have worked in the pharmacy before and I have seen how the system works. When a script is filled, even by a tech, the pharmacist MUST verify it is correct before it can be sold. The POS register system will not allow it without it being verified. This involved the pharmacist logging into a special system application that the techs do not have access to and the barcode on the vial is scanned. it shows the script as it was scanned into the system by the tech, plus it shows all the info on the drug PLUS a giant picture of the pill which takes up like 1/4th of the screen. granted the picture wouldn’t have raised any flags given that it was labelled for the incorrect drug but the pharmacist SHOULD have seen what the script was written for and said something to the tech so that is the fault of a lazy pharmacist and a lazy tech.

    About the refill, again, this should have been caught in the system that the script was incorrectly filled.

    All of the pharmacists I have ever worked with have gone out of their way for me to make sure that nothing ever interacts with anything else and that I am taking the proper medication as I have ADHD plus i have a very severe case of psoriasis and I have tried many different scripts for both things and am still looking for the right drugs for both.

  91. mike says:

    As more and more of these stories come out of the woodwork, I find myself pining for the old mom-and-pop pharmacy and malt shop. Remember those?

    Yes, the woman should have double-checked the drugs. But the fact is that people like her rely on the expertise of professionals. If a doctor tells me, “No, it’s not cancer but just an abnormality”, I’m pretty much going to beleive him.

    I don’t even know if there are privately owned pharmacies any more.

  92. majortom1029 says:

    The problem was that it was one of the assistants who screwed up and the pharmasist never checked it. Not that the pharmasist screwed up (well he sort of did by not checking his workers work).

  93. majortom1029 says:

    She also did check the drugs and figure i should take them anyway. (i saw this whole story on my local news they interviewed the woman.)

  94. TreyWaters says:

    To all those bashing on the pharmacist for this incident, I’d like to put in my 2 cents.

    In my mind, this incident (and others like it), in essence, goes back to the pharmacy’s (in this case CVS’s) practices. While, yes, the pharmacist is supposed to be ultimately responsible for the scripts that get filled, it’s typically one of the pharmacy techs that fill them. Then you realize that pharmacies (like CVS, Rite-Aid, etc) really only want to pay the techs minimum wage and not require any sort of certification/training, and I think it becomes quickly apparent where mistakes can easily happen.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of pharmacy techs out there that take their job seriously and do a good job at it (my SO is one of them), but how many minimum wage workers really do strive to be excellent at their jobs?

    Then you add on the fact that many of these pharmacies are over capacity for what is allowed by law – either filling more scripts than allowed per day, having too many techs/pharmacist – and the fact that the pharmacists are working long hours (in many cases 12+ hour days) and it becomes even MORE apparent how these mistakes get made.

    So, my point, unless the pharmacist is actually the one that filled this prescription (didn’t see that mentioned in the article), I don’t think the pharmacist should shoulder much of the blame.

  95. Phexerian says:

    CVS’ verification process for prescriptions is a joke. When I worked at CVS in the pharmacy, the pharmacist did not compare the bottle of drugs to the ACTUAL prescription. It was comapared to a SCAN of the prescription that showed up on the computer. And by all means, the scan was not very clear. A picture phone takes a better picture than the scanner. This would make it very difficult to denote what is what on a prescription as my former pharmacists had this problem constantly. I would imagine, that if the pharmacist verified the prescription and sent it out, then the problem would be at the verification process and using this screen. As far as I am concerned, CVS as a company should be fined for allowing use of such shotty equipment with a lack of detail needed to safely and accurately fill a prescription.

    If for some reason the technician threw the prescription bottle out to sale without the pharmacist checking it, then the tech should be responsible mostly. The pharmacist will still take some of the blame. This can happen, because some techs will know how to get to the verification screen (its not hard) and will know their pharmacists’ password (I know mine when I worked there and could bypass verification often if I needed to for some random reason but would still make sure the pharmacist checked it).

    CVS’ system and processes are far from perfect and can be manipulated in a ridiculous amount of ways.

    As far as training goes, that varies from state to state. In my state, a tech needs to have so many hours of training, backgrounds checks, license, etc before ever stepping into the pharmacy. Then they get more on the job training after they learn what they are supposed to do and not do. However, each state is different. Some states do not require much at all. There is a small movement to have all states become more stringent in technician training though but it may take many years since they have to go through the law makers.

    I”d also like to know what the script was written for and what drug was dispensed and see if the two are even close in name.

    As far as having more technicians per pharmacist than allowed by law, this is a common thing in ALL pharmacies. Some pharmacies are to busy to keep the pharmacist/tech ratio within legal limits. Of course the answer to this problem is to hire more pharmacists, but no company is going to do that. The few extra scripts that come in a pharmacy is not going to offset the extra 100k a year that a pharmacist makes. If you want to fix that, make the companies do something about it, or change the law because MOST pharmacies DO NOT COMPLY with this law. That is the way of the pharmacy world at the moment. (This is a state law I believe and varies from state to state)

    I would also like to know the relationship between the pharmacist and his/her techs. If a pharmacist, for some reason, doesn’t get along with one of his techs, some of the technicians are crazy and dumb enough to try and cause a mis fill to make the pharmacist look bad not even caring to think about the patient receiving the medication.

    Just remember, that even in one of the top 3-5 most trusted professions in the US, which is pharmacy, you will have good eggs and bad eggs so make sure to cross your T’s and dot your I’s when you are taking your medications.

    -Phex
    -3rd Year PharmD/MBA Candidate

  96. azrael1o says:

    I use to work at CVS for over 8 years, even back then they had the pharmacist check what the pill looks like to a picture on the screen (every single perscription) so to me it seems someone either entered the wrong perscription for that person (could have been a high school student) or the pharmacist did not follow procedure. As someone mentioned above they are still human and most of the time they are working 10-12 hour days!

    This is probably one bad apple in the bunch…don’t blame the victim

  97. PinUp says:

    With the number of prescriptions filled in the US every day, it’s pretty much a statistical inevitability that there will be a mistake. The best thing anyone can do is become familiar with your medications; make sure you know the drug name and what it’s for before you leave the doctor’s office, and read the indications in the printout that comes with the meds so you know for sure you have your Zyrtec and not someone else’s Prozac (as the case may be).

    Another reason to know your drugs: Doctors, nurses, and other staff that may be writing/calling in your prescription aren’t perfect, either. I got the wrong medication years ago because the nurse calling the Rx into the pharmacy left an uber-important prefix out of the drug name, so I got the older (WAY stronger) version of the drug I was supposed to have. The same could happen with extended-release versions that may have the same name as the original, just with “XR” added to the end.

    I have gotten into the habit of getting all drug info from the doc when the scrip is written so I’m able to spot a pharmacy mishap, and I always open the bottle and check the pills when I pick up a refill. If they look different, I’d rather know they’re the right drug (or not!) before I leave. If the staff is annoyed that you’re taking an extra two seconds at the counter, find a different pharmacy that actually cares about your health.

  98. PinUp says:

    …actually it wouldn’t be Zyrtec since that’s OTC now (YAY!), but you get the basic point.

  99. BlackFlag55 says:

    Iatrogenic injury. Americans are killed by iatrogensis at the rate of three jumbo jet crashes every two days. But because the victims are not all lumped together in one horrifying scene of mangled bodies and flaming luggage, this terrifying phenomenon doesn’t make the nightly news. The rate of innury from wrong dosage, wrong meds and wrongly filled prescriptions is well past 1,000,000 annually.

    Why do people continue to go to these heathen witches for “treatments” is beyond me. I witnessed a family member killed by a hospital and its staff last summer just as surely as if a gun had been used. Grotesue and gruesome aren’t nearly enough adjective. Simple procedure, fatal result from failure to take proper precautions, negligence afterwards and general failure to attend to the patient. He begged me to get him out of there, but his immediate family had “faith” in the “doctors”. And now, he’s in the ground. And the legal settlement is preposterously large, but he’s still dead. Wrong medication, in the wrong dose, administered at the wrong time.

  100. JohnMc says:

    I take blood thinners as subcutaneous shots. I check the quantity, the dosage and the expiry when I pick them up. Religiously.

    This is not an excusable event. Most pharmacies have a protocol for certain drugs that the pharm tech that pulls/counts the drugs is counter checked by the pharm on duty. Two sets of eyeballs and they still missed it. Shame.

  101. @BlackFlag55: So what is your solution? You could provide the same argument you presented against cars, but you provide no alternative or solution. I also find what you wrote vague. What is considered a “innury”? Is someone having a allergic reaction to a previously unknown allergy a “innury”? If we compare the 275,000 deaths yearly that you cite, to the number who are helped and SAVED by “medicine”, what is the ratio like? There are people who can not be saved. There are people who have underlying conditions which are undetectable, and only reveal and assert themselves when someone is undergoing a procedure.

  102. elephantstomp says:

    I have heard the average pharmacist kills 3 people throughout the course of their career. So why would this story be that surprising to any of you.

  103. strathmeyer says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: “Everybody (especially if you have kids) should have a copy of the big giant pill/drug book.”

    Wow, isn’t there someone I can pay to do this for me?

  104. darkryd says:

    Not surprising. They have more students than pharmacists working in their pharmacies…