Major pharmacy chains reportedly putting too much pressure on pharmacists

Economic pressures in the pharmaceutical industry are causing pharmacy personnel to make mistakes under severe stress to perform faster and to help maximize profit.

On Jan. 31, 2020, The New York Times published a comprehensive piece of investigative journalism into problems within major U.S. pharmaceutical chains that raise the risk of harmful and potentially fatal medication errors. The article describes the practice of imposing performance metrics - or quotas - for pharmacists to meet on the job and the resulting stressors that make mistakes more likely.

It begs the question whether a pharmacist should be held to the same kinds of production pressures of a manufacturing line worker or product assembler.

The Times investigated practices at retailers with pharmacies like Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS. It uncovered practices of cutting corners like understaffing, multiple job duties, administrative responsibilities unnecessary to filling prescriptions

Pharmacists have reported to state government boards and industry associations that their fear for patient safety has become overwhelming, while some doctors say that pharmacies are pressuring them to inappropriately refill scripts. The American Psychiatric Association has expressed concern that CVS's practice of seeking three-month prescriptions can be dangerous for some patients at risk of suicide, according to The Times.

The article describes one CVS pharmacist who quit because of safety concerns after he had to fill 552 prescriptions in one day in addition to other duties.

Florida pharmacy malpractice law

Examples of pharmaceutical mistakes that could occur in the process of filling prescriptions include:

  • Dispensing the wrong drug
  • Filling the wrong dosage
  • Providing the wrong dosage schedule
  • Providing the wrong person's prescription to another customer
  • And others

In serving customers, Florida pharmacists have the legal duty to exercise reasonable care in filling prescriptions - the standard of care a prudent pharmacist would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. Floridians or people vacationing or visiting the state who are injured because of a pharmacist's mistake may have a claim for pharmacy malpractice under state law.

A Florida pharmacist has the duty of care to dispense the proper medication, use reasonable care in filling a prescription, mix or prepare the medication correctly and see that no dangerous substances are in a dispensed drug.

In Florida, the plaintiff in a pharmacy malpractice lawsuit may be able to recover monetary damages to compensate for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and other losses. Punitive damages - those meant to punish the wrongdoer and serve as a deterrent example to others -- may be available in particularly outrageous cases.

Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A., with four Florida law offices, represents Floridians harmed by medication errors and pharmacy malpractice. The firm also serves clients who are the surviving loved ones of victims who have passed on as a result of medication mistakes in wrongful death suits.