Lawsuit: Walgreens Substituted Chemo Drug For Prenatal Vitamins

A woman who suffered a miscarriage after taking chemo drugs that were supposed to be prenatal vitamins is suing Walgreens, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Chanda Givens was given a presription for Materna, a prenatal vitamin, but her local Walgreens pharmacist gave her Matulane, a drug used to treat advanced Hodgkin’s disease. The complaint says that drug ” is designed to interfere with the growth of cells by blocking their ability to split and reproduce.”

Walgreens had no comment.

Suit: Chemo drug led to miscarriage [Chicago Tribune]
(Photo:Ben Popken)


Edit Your Comment

  1. InThrees says:

    Horrible accident. I assume the situation is something like… pharmacy supply bottles of each of these are right next to each other on the shelf or something.

  2. AD8BC says:

    My wife and I have lost three pregnancies… one was a stillbirth. Although they were all natural losses, you cannot put a price on this.

    I hope that she wins and wins big. Money won’t make her feel better, I know. But Walgreens needs to pay for this.

  3. protest says:

    or more like doctor’s handwriting illegible.

  4. Dick.Blake says:

    hold off on filling the prescription until the doctor can be called to verify his/her illegible handwriting. Pharmacists shouldn’t have to guess.

  5. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:


    But if the doctor’s handwriting was illegible, wouldn’t it have made sense for the pharmacy to verify the prescription with the doctor’s office?

  6. Spyrojoe says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS: Agreed. Especially if the pharmacist knew (which he should) that this pregnant woman was either supposed to get vitamins or a drug that would obviously have detrimental effects on her unborn child.

  7. amoeba says:

    After reading this, I felt so sad. I also hope she wins for this HUGE mistake. Besides, I can’t remember when I read an article, but this year it came out an ordinance where the prescriptions must be legible.

  8. knightbass says:

    Both my GP and a specialist I see attach a computer-printed copy with the handwritten prescription so the pharmacy staff never have to guess. Why isn’t this common practice yet?

  9. MystiMel says:

    I believe the pharmacist to be ultimately responsible, HOWEVER This story really illustrates the need for women to mind absolutely everything you put in their body when pregnant. As sad as it is, if she had checked the label and the drug info that were given with the bottle she might have been able to prevent this from happening.

  10. howie_in_az says:

    I guess “whoops” wouldn’t quite cover it.

    That’s pretty horrible though.

  11. amoeba says:

    @MystiMel: What about, if she just got this new prescription, the pharmacist has to double check her medicine. Also, if she had a refill in the past, the pharmacy must have that information as well.

  12. scoobydoo says:

    @MystiMel: Who says the label was wrong? When I read the article I assumed that the pharmacist put the wrong pills in the bottle. The label could have been correct.

    For as long as I can remember I’ve always verified the inscription of the pills with what they are meant to be (according to the drug info).

  13. B says:

    Sounds like Mr. Gower has been drinking again. Too bad George Bailey wasn’t around to stop him from mixing up the medications.

  14. UpsetPanda says:

    I’m not totally aware of the standard practices here but wouldn’t have the instructions for the chemo medication mention what it is used for? I mean, hodgkins disease vs. pregnancy, two very different things. I always read instructions, she had to read them to know what her dosage was.

  15. cryrevolution says:

    @MystiMel: I’m under the impression that the pharmacist doesn’t just GIVE her the bottle, he/she gives her the required dosage in a standard bottle, and prints out the label himself. If thats the case, the incorrect pills could have been given in the correct bottle. They themselves filled it wrong & there was no way this woman would have ever known unless she was a licensed pharmacist & dealt with pills on a daily basis. Which she was not, so she holds absolutely no responsibility for this whatsoever. I hope she gets a hefty amount from them, this is horrible.

  16. cryrevolution says:

    @CoffeeCup: Normally, upon filling a new prescription, the pharmacist or assistant gives her the instructions orally, describes when to take them, how much. Could have been the pre-natal label but incorrect pills actually in the bottle.

  17. JiminyChristmas says:

    About 2 years ago, the practice where I go to see my GP switched to an electronic prescription system. The docs type in the prescription, print it out, and sign it. Illegible prescriptions are no more. Prior to that, trying to read the handwritten scrips was heinous. I can only assume that pharmacists were somehow used to deciphering it, because I never got an incorrect prescription.

    If it weren’t so pathetic to watch the transition to electronic records it would be hilarious. Only after I sat in an exam room and watched my doc laboriously peck at the keyboard with two fingers did it dawn on me he was just barely computer literate. He is not that old either, so it’s not like he’s 50 years behind the technology curve.

    The article is not clear on exactly what happened. Did Matulane get put in a package labelled Materna, so there was no way for anyone else to catch the mistake? Or did the prescription actually get filled and labelled as Matulane?

  18. homerjay says:

    I have a good friend who is a pharmacist for CVS. In their system, a picture of the correct pill comes up on the screen when processing the order. When you get the instruction sheet home, there is a picture of the pill right there in the sheet.

    This was avoidable on several levels. Its Walgreens. Its not likely that the pharmacist was the only one touching this bottle. Typically there’s a (lowly paid) pharm tech who fills it and the pharmacist verifies it. She also mention that this kind of thing happens more often than you’d like to know.

    ALWAYS check your pills.

  19. cashmerewhore says:

    Also, if this was her first prenatal script she wouldn’t have known what the pill looked like anyway, so she would have probably assumed that the pharmacist was correct.

  20. liquisoft says:

    Good Lord that’s horrible. You would hope Walgreens would take more precautions.

  21. nursetim says:

    My wife always has me go to the pharmacy to fill new prescriptions, since I have more knowledge about meds than she does. Our doctor has semi legible hand writing, so I look at the actual script before getting it filled, just to be sure.

    As an aside, one of the attending doctors at the nursing home where I work has the absolute worst hand writing I have ever seen. I always try to look through his orders before he leaves so I can clarify anything I am not sure about. I imagine pharmacists learn how to read bad writing.

  22. Hambriq says:

    @homerjay: I have a good friend who is a pharmacist for CVS. In their system, a picture of the correct pill comes up on the screen when processing the order. When you get the instruction sheet home, there is a picture of the pill right there in the sheet.

    That’s how it is at every pharmacy. But if the prescription is entered into the system incorrectly, then the incorrect pill will show up on the verification screen.

    When you get a prescription filled, you are going to get whatever was inputted into the computer. 99% of these kinds of errors come from someone typing in the wrong drug/dosage/strength when they are inputting the prescription.

    Obviously, there’s a lot of blame to be thrown around here. It just stresses the need for every person in a health care profession to be extremely careful. For all you doctors out there, this just goes to show you that the godawful practice of scribbling out prescriptions in nearly illegible chick scratch can get patients killed. And for all you pharmacists and pharmacy techs out there, patient safety should always come first, not filling a high volume of prescriptions as quickly as possible.

    Given that I have firsthand experience with the latter, I can say sadly that many workers in pharmacies lose sight of this.

  23. cryrevolution says:

    @homerjay: I take claims all the time for miss-fills. Most of the time, they catch it before the patient actually ingests the pills, but I’ve never seen a claim as serious as this. It’s horrible. If this was her first pre-natal script, then theres no way she would’ve known. I’m assuming its the job of the licensed pharmacist to catch these kind of mistakes, especially if they just filled the bottle with incorrect pills but the labeling was all correct.

  24. cryrevolution says:

    And has anyone that that maybe they DID input the correct pill/dosage, but when the pharmacist/pharmacist tech went to fill it, they just mistakingly grabbed the wrong bottle? They both seem like they would be next to each other, Matulane & Maturna. Its quite possible.

  25. 44 in a Row says:

    Interestingly, I just took a look at the one prescription I have, and the pills actually have the name of the drug printed on the surface of the pill. Maybe that’s a better idea than these cryptic codes and abbreviations.

  26. gina227 says:

    They most likely were right next to each other on the shelf because they usually do it alphabetically. But I used to work in a pharmacy and I know that the prescription is (or is supposed to be) checked, counted, and re-counted at least 3 separate times between the pharmacist and the tech. Prenatal pills are pretty common so you would think at least one of them would have noticed the mistake during one of the counts. If they’re that spaced out, they definitely should not be dispensing drugs. The pharmacist that I worked with was so attentive that he often caught dangerous drug interactions that the doctor had missed. And this was way before we had the computer systems that automatically detected interactions and/or showed pictures of the correct drug.

    That poor, poor woman. I hope she gets a huge settlement, although that can never make up for this kind of loss.

  27. Jordan Lund says:

    Pharmaceutical company to market cancer drug as morning after pill in 3 – 2 – 1…

  28. homerjay says:

    @Hambriq: Wait, I thought the Rx was run through the system correctly but the wrong pill was put into the bottle…?

    I’m confused.

  29. abigsmurf says:

    It’s an obvious mistake but a hugely damaging one. It’s hard to know how to safeguard against this kind of thing, the obvious solution is requiring a doctors ok on damaging drugs but that could end up taking too much pharmicist and doctors time to be practical.

    How about they have a number code for each form of medication? Stock filling for supermarkets requires the use of UPNs to ensure produces are in the correct place, how about giving each prescription a code which can be checked to ensure that if a patient requires rolisian they’re not given rolislan (names made up)

  30. Draconianspark says:

    Materna is a small tan tablet that looks like a multivitamin with Materna M-55 embossed on it.

    Matulane is an ivory capsule that has MATULANE Ï? sigma-tau imprinted on it.

    I found this information after spending about thirty seconds with google.

    While it is inexcusable that this occur, it is still quite plausible that this was simple, blatant human error. It’s human error that should cost somebody a license and a career, and a company a large amount of punitive damages, but it’s still human error.

    I would not trust any new medications ( or any different-looking old medications for that matter ) without checking some sort of physicians reference first, especially with a responsibility as important as an unborn child.

    In that, it’s as much the woman’s fault for being an uninformed sheep popping whatever pills she’s handed with the trust that they’re correct as it is the pharmacy that provided the wrong pills to begin with.

  31. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Draconianspark: Congratulations. It took 30 comments, but someone finally got around to blaming the victim.

  32. cryrevolution says:

    @homerjay: Thats most likely what happened but some people are trying to blame the lady for not checking her pills. As if she would know the difference but whatev. Theres always going to be victim bashers.

  33. Draconianspark says:

    @cryrevolution: Wouldn’t not knowing prompt you to take a leap of faith and, well, find out?

    I can only see two scenarios, one in which our prospective mother has taken this medication before and one where she has not.

    In the one where she has, wouldn’t the sudden transformation of her medication from a brown vitamin tablet to an ivory capsule raise an eyebrow?

    In the one where has not, wouldn’t it be pertinent to check the Internet for any possible complications and/or side effects before starting the new medication? Perhaps along the way she can discover that the capsules she has are not a prenatal vitamin.

    Granted, this should never have happened. I expect to see a pharmacist loose their license to practice, and I expect a huge settlement and punitive damages paid out by Walgreens’ insurance.

    That doesn’t change the fact that she took pills without learning about them on the faith of the competence of a retail pharmacist.

    In fact, I’ll wager that this very same woman more meticulously checked the validity of a drive through order before leaving the window than she did her medication, and the only thing separating those two fields of retail is a decade long nap in medical school.

  34. Dr. Eirik says:

    I get refills at Target all the time, and even if this wasn’t her first refill, generic pills change all the time. My lisinopril has change two or three times in the last five years as Target has gone to different suppliers. So has some of my diabetic medication.

    I don’t think that it’s at all unreasonable for a person to assume that the controls worked at her pharmacy and that she could trust she was getting the right medication.

    Frankly, I’m not sure if you asked the average person they’d have a clue how to check out their medication themselves. Those that have some knowledge would probebly think about the PDR, but you have to *have* one. A recent one, at that.

  35. Draconianspark says:

    @Dr. Eirik:

    Also most pharmacies I have used retain a copy of the PDR and have no trouble allowing you to see it.

    Call me paranoid, but I tend to double check if the pills do so much as change color.

  36. MystiMel says:

    If the shape of the pills change over time, the name printed on the medication… (in these two medications they are both printed with the name) won’t change. I agree with draconianspark here. If I was pregnant I’d be careful about everything I put in my body, especially medication.

  37. rexforever says:

    walgreens messed up my prescription too. they gave me orthro tri cyclen instead of orthro cyclen. didn’t even apologize about. and i never would have known it was the wrong scrip, except for that i’d been taking the same thing for 2 years.

    they are evil. that’s why i go to target pharmacy. they recognize me when i come to the counter. i thought all pharmacists were rude, but then i realized, it’s just the ones at walgreens…

  38. homerjay says:

    @rexforever: I don’t think they’re evil. Its just that every industry has their fuck-ups. if you’re a fuck-up in sales, all that happens is that you don’t make much money.

    The problem with pharmacists is that there is a huge shortage and the asshats are still working. The good thing about the Target pharmacy is that they’re not overworked. They’re not filling hundreds of Rx every hour. They’re filling 10’s.

    They have time to double check- even if they’re retarded.

  39. ry81984 says:

    Your experience is not company specific, its store specific.

    What you said about Target is what most people say about Walgreens.

    There is a shortage of pharmacists, every drug store will higher anyone with a pharmacy degree. They need pharmacists to have their pharmacy’s open so they do not care what their personalities are.

    What is terrible in this case is Walgreens will be screwed when the pharmacists is fully to blame here.

    Whats worse is this will probably be settled out of court and the pharmacist will keep his job because they cannot afford to fire a pharmacist.

  40. lestat730 says:

    That’s really awful and I feel really bad for her and her husband. We trust our doctors and pharmacists to take care of us and look out for our well being because they are the ones who have been through the intense education required to do what they do. You certainly can’t expect a patient to catch everything themselves. She definitely deserves something for this as I’m sure it has caused a lot of emotional problems and depression. In order for Wallgreens to save face, they really should just admit their mistake and try to come up with something they could offer her to try and make up for it instead of going the court route. I’d be amazed if any judge took Wallgreens side if it does go to court though… Anyway, Mixing up a vitamin with a chemo drug sounds very dangerous and mistakes like this could potentially KILL people depending on the medicine involved. I believe pharmacists should always check and double check everything before handing over the medication to the patient ESPECIALLY if the patient happens to be pregnant.

  41. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    Wow — just, wow…

  42. FromThisSoil says:

    I’m not one that supports the suing of individuals and companies over frivolous things, as are 90% of cases in courts these days (pulled that statistic out of my ass).

    However, the pharmacist is grossly negligible in this case.

  43. Draconianspark says:

    @lestat730: The sad thing is that pharmacists do indeed check and double check everything before handing medication over. This is a relatively minor case of this kind of occurrence. People do die from events such as this. Frequently. This girl is lucky that she wasn’t given something like

    There is absolutely no saving face for Walgreen’s here, nothing they could do could make up for the loss of a life. They would be a bunch of idiots if they let this go to trial.

    Also, admitting that this was a mistake opens up a hotbed of liability that their legal team will have to weigh carefully; this is a situation that could potentially manifest criminal charges depending on the state’s laws and the aggressiveness of the resident DA/Grand Jury, which I am no expert on.

    As far as care-givers being trustworthy; Don’t trust anybody with your well being save for yourself, because your well being is not relevant to anybody else’s interests.

    As I said before, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if this person took 30 seconds to type the word written on the pill into google and reading about it before putting it in her mouth.

  44. timmus says:

    What would really help us Consumerists is some links to some drug identification websites so if we have some meds we can go right to our bookmarks.

  45. chartrule says:

    i like that RxList

  46. trillium says:

    Okay – confused here a little bit. There are alot of questions that appear to not be answered. I know the local Walgreens not only prints on the bottle label what the pill looks like (ex. Round white table, Side 1: Side 2: , etc), they also provide a pretty descriptive little insert that includes the general information about the medication and what its supposed to do.

    Not that I’m taking Walgreen’s side on this because they did make a mistake, but was the bottle labeled correctly or did it carry the label of the incorrect medication?

    Don’t know about the rest of ya’ll, but I always make sure that the little description printed on the side of the bottle matches whats inside and that the name of the drug on the bottle is what was prescribed.

    With the information available so far, it is difficult to discern what information was provided by the pharmacy regarding the script.

  47. XTC46 says:

    @timmus: []

    here you go.

  48. rdm24 says:


    Pharmacists are not vending machines. They are trained medical professionals and they are responsible for the miedicines they dispense.

    That’s why pharmacists can call the doctor if they can’t understand the writing.
    That’s why pharmacists are trained not to give miscariage-causing drugs to pregnant women.
    That’s why they check to make sure there aren’t dangerous interactions between the various drugs you are taking.

    Yes, the pharmacist is 100% responsible here.

  49. Draconianspark says:

    @rdm24:I am certain that this particular event was contrary to the training of this particular pharmacist, but it happened anyway, and it happened in a way that one can objectively look at the situation, however unfortunate, and say “I can see how that can happen” as they are very similarly named medications.

    In a perfect world, yes, this would never happen. Realistically though, would you rely completely and blindly upon the integrity and infallibility of one person who is, as you say, 100% responsible for dozens, if not hundreds of different prescriptions being filled every day?

    I certainly don’t, and within my immediate family there have been at least two occasions where mis filled prescriptions or interactions with correctly filled prescriptions would have been injurious if not fatal; each time was circumvented by a quick check in the PDR, and more recently the internet equivalents.

  50. Hambriq says:

    @homerjay: Wait, I thought the Rx was run through the system correctly but the wrong pill was put into the bottle…?
    I’m confused.

    The odds of this happening are astronomically low. To even fill a prescription, you have to scan the stock bottle of the drug you are using. If you scan the wrong bottle, the computer will angrily beep at your and not let you proceed with the filling. When it comes time for the pharmacist to verify the prescription, it displays an image of what should be the correct pill.

    Thus, for the pill into the bottle to not match the drug in the system, two independent safety checks would have to fail, which is almost unfathomable, but not altogether impossible.

    More likely is the following scenario:

    1.) Pharmacy receives the prescription, sees a scribble for “Materna 1tpoqd”.

    2.) Pharmacist/Tech inputs the prescription as “Matulane”

    3.) Prescription is filled as Matulane.

    4.) Pharmacist verifies that the prescription contained in the bottle is indeed Matulane.

    Again, there’s a lot of blame to be thrown around here. The doctor prescribed a grossly outdated medicine that I highly doubt any pharmacy would keep in stock, much less be familiar with. The company that manufactures it hasn’t even been around since the early ’90s.

    However, it’s our responsibility in the pharmacy to be familiar with all drugs, no matter how antiquated. I still receive prescriptions for “Tenormin” and “Glucophage”, and I have to scrape through the dredges of my memory and recall that Tenormin = Atenolol and Glucophage = Metformin.

    Those are commonly prescribed drugs, though. I have never even SEEN a prescription for Materna before. Frankly, I would probably not have remembered what the heck it was, if there a court case surrounding it in the late ’90s weren’t referenced in one of my old textbooks.

    Given the outdated nature of the medicine, it’s not unlikely that the doctor still clings to the old practice of writing prescriptions as illegibly as possible. And it’s certainly not unlikely that the pharmacy, swamped with prescriptions, didn’t bother to double check that the scribble on the paper wasn’t supposed to mean “Materna” rather than Matulane.

  51. Hambriq says:

    What this whole situation underscores is a larger problem with the health care system in general. The number of people seeking health care is increasing exponentially. And yet, doctors and pharmacists are extremely slow to adapt to their changing roles in the system.

    We fill an average of 450 prescriptions a day at my pharmacy. We are open 14 hours a day, so that amounts to approximately one prescription every two minutes for fourteen solid hours. And yet, our method of operations is still the same as it is if we were filling 100 prescriptions a day. We are fraught with inefficiencies and antiquated ways of doing things. And yet, any attempts to change are shot down. Why? Because old habits die hard.

    Our role as the pharmacy is to be the final stopgap between the patient and their medicine. It is our job to insure that no mistakes are made. No excuses. And no mistakes. With increased pressure from corporate to decrease spending, laws restricting the number of workers in a pharmacy, and the increased workload caused from the dramatic increase in prescriptions being filled, it’s no wonder that pharmacists everywhere are cutting corners.

    The reason nothing is done about it is because change is expensive, and right now, the current pharmacy business model is working well. They can squeeze 450+ prescriptions out of four workers (two on weekends). Not to sound cliche, but, things aren’t going to change until their bottom line is affected.

    I don’t know the business side of doctors’ offices, by any stretch of the imagination. But I do know that doctors are pressured to see as many patients as possible in a short amount of time. I do know that we still receive huge numbers of prescriptions on the venerable prescription pad, rather than the far superior computerized prescription. To what extent that change is realistic, I don’t know. But I do know that there is room for improvement on the medical side of things.

    What it all boils down to is, we’re in the classic decline dilemma. We are resistant to change at a time when we should be most open to it.

  52. cryrevolution says:

    Even I have to admit, we certainly need more information on this. Were the label correct or incorrect? Were the pills just the wrong ones? I still say she’ll probably get a huge settlement, seeing as a miscarriage is involved.

  53. Allura says:

    One thing that CVS has started doing is the labels now include a physical description of the pill. For instance, one I just took says “This is a WHITE, ROUND-shaped, TABLET imprinted with LOGO 70 on the front and Z on the back.” Since it’s a generic, I frequently get a different one each time I refill, so that’s really helpful. Unfortunately, my pharmacy plan prefers I use Medco, and they don’t do this, so I have to look up the identifying markers every time.

  54. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @trillium: Whenever I switch from a generic to a namebrand or vice versa, or get a new drug, I make sure to read the little insert that comes with the meds. Target ALSO puts little descriptions on the pages. If a drug changes all of a sudden, that is a red flag, and I check to see if everything is kosher. As for new meds, I always verify the description, and read the insert to make sure. I also always ask the pharm if it will interact even if the comp does it automatically.

    My one pharmacy used to spit out other items I might like to pick up for side effects. My Wellbutrin info always recommended laxatives, but luckily I never needed them.

    I hate to say this, but you should LOOK at what you shovel into your mouth before the shoveling. At every step, a HUMAN was involved. As humans, we all error. While not all the victims fault, she does share SOME blame, no matter what the outcome was. By that I mean that if the effect was just the runs, it does not elicit the same response as a miscarriage, even though they were the result of the same mistake.

  55. MommaJ says:

    One aspect of this tragedy that no one has mentioned is the absurdity of mere vitamins being prescription drugs. “Maternity” vitamins are just vitamins, after all. They’re innocuous and should be shelved with all the other vitamins that can be purchased over the counter. The reason why they aren’t is that insurers won’t pay for them unless they are sold as a prescription, and consumers would naturally rather buy a covered item than one they have to pay full price for. It’s just another example of how our healthcare system is broken.

  56. Navin R Johnson says:

    Pharmacists are highly educated and highly paid for a reason. ANY pharmacist would tell you that they would know how serious it would be to accidentally give ANYONE Matulane. If there was even the slightest question it should have been checked with the doctor or at least the patient. As much fun as it is to hate Walmart, this is the fault of the pharmacist in my opinion.

  57. marsneedsrabbits says:

    You know when you get your prescription filled, they have you sign a form? Well, they are supposed to explain the drugs to you before you sign that. That form explains how you take the drug, what to take it with, the major side-effects, etc. You sign it to acknowledge that they’ve talked to you.
    The problem is, a lot of the time, they don’t explain anything, & just say “sign here”.
    Sometimes, they’ve made a mistake somewhere along the line that will be caught when the pharmacist says “You need to take these 3x a day as an anti-tumor treatment” and you say “But I don’t have cancer, I’m pregnant”.
    But sometimes they don’t take the time, and just insist that you sign the form, which they aren’t supposed to do, but they do anyway. Because they are busy or shorthanded or whatever.
    And sometimes, sadly, tragically, people die as a result.
    Choose your pharmacy as though your life depended on it.
    It really may someday.

  58. pshah says:

    @Draconianspark: I guess you also double check your brake fluid after an oil change,
    Go through maintenance logs of the airplane you are about to fly in,
    Run a background check on everyone from your mailman to your pizza delivery guy,
    Check the cereal for sharp objects,

    I do this its a good practice to double check the meds before taking them but come on…

  59. marimartian says:

    While it’s obvious that someone in the pharmacy made a mistake, it hardly shocks me. Always check and double check any medicines you take regardless of who gives them to you. Thanks to a series of medical problems, I’ve been given the wrong medicines by nurses in a hospital, aides in a nursing home, and pharmacists. All multiple times. Fortunately I’ve always either caught the mistake or someone looking after me caught the mistake, but it’s terrifying. Get your hands on a PDR and use it.

  60. rparvez says:

    This was an absolutely horrible thing to happen, and my heart goes out to the family.

    I worry about the broader implications of the court case. If she wins some incredibly large monetary award for this, what will the repercussions be? Will it be the case that every prescription filled will require a call-back to the physician? Will there be some further verification that has to be in place?

    And what happens if that’s the case?

    I’m currently a medical resident, and one of the major concerns I hear from all of my colleagues is how “all this paperwork” is getting in the way of our treating patients in a timely and effective manner. Physicians are concerned as hell about liability and at the same time are trying to be conscious of not practicing overly defensive medicine.

    This was a horrible, horrible thing to happen to anyone. Of that there’s no question. I guess I just fear the backlash that will come from it as well. It could mean another form you fill in the doctor’s office, another form your doctor will have to fill out stating that they explained all of these extra warnings to you, and another delay as you wait for the person ahead of you at the doc’s office and at the pharmacy while they fill out all those forms too.

    It was a rare event. I just expect that once the suit goes through, healthcare’s kneejerk response will be to try to guard against these rare events as if they happened every day, and make things worse for everyone.

  61. icyfire111 says:

    I work in a pharmacy as a pharmacy tech and this situation is certainly terrible. I really hope the woman gets adequate compensation from this. But I have to throw some defense to the pharmacists in general.
    First a side note, I’ve never heard of Materna and I’ve been working for over a year (I guess its an old med and the only prenatal vitamin that the doctor remembered). Pharmacists and the pharmacy staff are extremely overworked. I’ve seen many of these “pharmacy mistake” stories floating around but they often don’t bother to talk about how the pharmacy staff is severely abused by corporate. Literally, 4 people end up doing 8 peoples’ work and yes, mistakes will happen with this type of system in place. Not only do pharmacists have to deal with the sheer excess of prescriptions, but they have to fight with insurance companies, do back office work, answer a question about cough medicine, answering the phone, the drive thru, some lady who wants to know where the hairspray is, etc etc. If we aren’t going to let pharmacy’s do their job and only their job, I don’t think these errors will cease.

  62. YlimE08 says:

    I work for Walgreens. Honestly, I’m not surprised. Their entire bottom line is company growth. I could tell you stories that would make your head spin.

  63. shiftless says:

    You really have to check your prescriptions every single time. I’ve had so many mix-up’s and inaccurate pill counts that I don’t leave the counter until I double-check. It’s as bad as a McDonalds Drive Thru window.

  64. jaewon223 says:

    i thought wrong prescriptions were a thing of the past with computerization but i guess not. this is just too sad.

  65. Trai_Dep says:

    Well, clearly it was the damn fetus’ fault.

    (no one was blaming the victim yet, so…)

  66. gibbersome says:

    1. You can’t sue someone for poor handwriting.
    2. The woman would have to prove that the miscarriage was the result of the medication.
    3. She deserves money from Walgreens, hopefully the drug has not caused any permanent harm.
    4. There needs to be better communication between doctors and pharmacists.

  67. Hoss says:

    @gibbersome: It’s not like she is claiming that zinc in her antiperspirant killed her fetus — anyway, since when can’t you sue anyone for any reason?

  68. maevro says:

    If the pharmacist cannot read the physicians handwriting or isn’t 100i% sure, you get someone to verify the script before filling it.

    As for this, accidents do happen, especially when some pharmacies are short staffed but its not like woman threw up, it caused her to lose her child and thats no joke. I wonder if Wallgreens will fight it or if they will settle. I mean, this cannot be good for PR any way you slice it.

    I have gotten prescriptions and have found other drugs
    mixed in and I have no idea how they got in there.

  69. Dilbitz says:

    Hell, many years ago I was a customer of the now defunct Osco’s (bought out by CVS), and I had a panicked Pharm Tech call me at home after picking up my prescription of allergy meds.

    Apparently she didn’t give someone the correct pills and was trying to track down whom she gave them to. I’m glad mine was correct, but to this day I wonder if she found where she put the wrong pills…

  70. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    To obtain a medical license, you must:

    1. Have graduated from an AMA-certified medical school,
    2. Have fulfilled the residency and intern requirements in your state/city,
    3. Have no criminal record,
    4. Present a social security card (you do not have to surrender it),
    5. Be a legal resident of the United States, and
    6. Be able to type with all 10 fingers and/or have legible handwriting OR
    7. have the ability to hire a secretary/typist and/or have hired one.


  71. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Draconianspark: My well-being most certainly is relevant to caretakers’ interests, seeing as how I could sue them for everything they’re worth if they cause me injury through negligence. If the medical professionals you know aren’t at all interested in keeping their jobs and their money, I suggest you find new ones.

  72. mcnanners says:

    @timmus: Walgreens posts their drugs they sell and even how much they are per tablet.

    But I will admit that there has been more times that I haven’t checked my medication from the pharmacy then when I do. It’s human nature to put your trust in someone that you believe has your best interest at heart. Which I believe that most doctors and pharmacists do. Unfortunately most pharmacies these days do not have solely the pharmacist filling the prescription but techs, that could be as highschool students. It is an unfortuante side effect of the gobbling up of independent pharmacies.

  73. …I’ve never seen a claim as serious as this.

    @cryrevolution: Exactly. I doubt it occurs to most people to look up what their pills are supposed to look like unless it’s either already happened to them before, take several medications, or are responsible for someone else’s medication. It’s not like we’re constantly reading news stories about pharmacists screwing up like this.

  74. hapless says:



    Yes, the pharmacist is responsible. As I understand it, at the large chain stores, the pharmacist is often an employee of the firm, not an independent agent. That’s the major advantage to working at a chain store.

    Hence her suing Walgreens.

  75. Caroofikus says:

    @Dick.Blake: I agree with not filling the prescription if it’s illegible. I had a similar problem with Walgreens once myself. I took in a prescription and the pharmacist said to me “Maybe he meant [some drug]” and then proceeded to get that one. I just looked at her with a blank stare and told her to give me my prescription back. I haven’t gone back. Also, at the same Walgreens, my wife had a thyroid medication filled. Problem is, there are apparently two types of thyroid medication. They gave her the one that made her problem worse.

    I hope this lady wins the company. People who are that incompetent shouldn’t even be ringing up Tylenol.

  76. Sirpuddingfoot says:

    Worst case scenario for the guilty party: Culpable or Criminal Negligence resulting in death: Manslaughter in the Second Degree.

  77. @Navin R Johnson: It happend at Walgreens, not Walmart.

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Maybe we should be hearing about it more. From an update on this story from [] :

    Every year in the United States, 30 million dispensing errors out of 3 billion prescriptions occur at outpatient pharmacies, according to the National Patient Safety Foundation…”There’s been a tremendous increase in fatal pharmacy errors over the past 20 years,” said David Phillips, a sociology professor at the University of California-San Diego who has studied this issue. “And the increase is much bigger for outpatient pharmacies than for inpatient pharmacies.”

  78. bradanomics says:

    One thing I am wondering is why they are giving a prescription for Materna, which is an OTC vitamin.

  79. aminay01 says:

    Just to lay it out, I am a Sr. Pharmacy Technician at a Walgreens. I just want to give my little insight on this situation.
    Ok, true, it was Walgreens fault. There were many steps that should have been taken into consideration. First of all at a Walgreens, the first step is the image of the prescription is scanned into the computer so anyone bringing up the screen can see it. second, the technician types in the data from the script. The pharmacist verifies that the information has been correctly entered into the system, then allows the technician to fill it. After it is filled and before it goes into the hand of the patient, the pharmacist looks over the actual pill and verifies the correct pill went into the bottle and was correctly labeled. The mistake could have been anybody’s fault, but the pharmacist should have caught it. That is their job.
    Mistakes happen at any pharmacy and a lot of the reason is because of the shortage of pharmacists. The corporations do not want to get rid of any of them, even those unqualified, careless, etc. that work there. Then, they have to find coverage to keep that pharmacy open because unlike most places, a pharmacy cannot legally be open if there is not a pharmacist there at all times. Therefore, you have people entrusting their lives to these type pharmacists.
    Unfortunately, I know from experience. I have worked with many of them that I have caught mistakes myself at the register that they did not. And one of these mistakes could have been bad (not quite this bad, but you get the picture). I am not sure if it is laziness, if they trust their technicians too much, or what it is, but it happens. If corporations would just bite the bullet and fire those pharmacists, this problem would get better.
    They would fire one of us in a heartbeat if we were not quallified.

  80. aminay01 says:

    Just a comment on the signing a form before you get your prescription…I am not sure what state you live in, but in our state we are just supposed to make sure the customer does not have any questions for the pharmacist. So, if they don’t ask about it, then unfortunately, the pharmacist does not speak with them directly. The only time a pharmacist makes sure to speak with the patient is if there is a drug allergy on file and the prescription may affect that or a reaction between medications the patient is on. The pharmacist does not speak with every patient, and legally, we technician cannot give advice or information like that.

  81. jchennav says:

    @bradanomics: Prescription medicines are covered under drug benefit plans. The patient is either reimbursed or pays a discounted price for the medicine.

  82. slamberkins says:

    I actually work in a pharmacy and I can say that if we come across a prescription that we can’t read we always call and verify it with the doctor. We also check the profile of the patient to see that the prescribed drug matches up with other medications. In the case of Matulane, it isn’t something that is given out very often (partially because of the high price) and is only given to patients that have already been on other similar medications. The pharmacist should have noticed this and made a call to the doctor or the patient. I’m not in any way blaming the patient by saying that upon receiving the medication they should have read the information packet and realized that there was something wrong, what happened to this family was a terrible thing and someone is responsible. I guess this can be used as a lesson to always take the chance to ask you pharmacist any questions you might have and to also take the time to read the information sheet that comes along with your medications before taking them.

  83. slamberkins says:


    It’s actually a very rare occurrence to see a pharmacist fill any prescription, that is what the technicians are there for. Pharmacists just check to see that the correct drug is used.

  84. Anonymous says:

    Walgreens once gave me the wrong pills in the correct bottle (they give you a standard bottle with a label on it). The label said the correct drug info with my name, doctor’s name, etc. but when I opened the bottle, I didn’t recognize the look of the pills. Thankfully, this was a refill and I had the opportunity to know that the pills were wrong. I took it back and they switched it for me. To this day, I have no idea what they were trying to give me. If it hadn’t been a refill, who knows what would’ve happened. I feel sorry for this woman since she may not have known what the pills were supposed to look like and if the bottle had a label with the correct drug info on it, she would have had no way of knowing that it was the wrong medication in the bottle.