Channel 2 Investigates reveals pharmacies with most complaints about prescription errors

Steps to take to prevent dangerous mixup

HOUSTON – Channel 2 Investigates is revealing the local pharmacies with the most complaints about prescription errors.

Many mistakes never get reported, and there are steps you can take to prevent a dangerous mixup.

Evan Merritt is just 7 months old. In his short life, he's been through a lot.

"He's had a rough several months of life," said Evan's mother, Krisztina. "He's kind of hit every bump in the road."

Merritt was born with a serious kidney condition. He's already had one surgery and a second surgery is just weeks away.

"He was placed on a maintenance antibiotic from birth," Krisztina said.

In October, Merritt's doctor prescribed a new antibiotic.

"We gave him that antibiotic every day for 30 days," Krisztina said.

When it was time to refill the prescription, Krisztina claims something was off.

"The two medicines looked so different," Krisztina said.

Merritt's dad went back to the pharmacy to check it out.

"The pharmacy tech was shocked," Krisztina said.

Merritt's parents think the new prescription was right, but what he had taken every day for the previous month was wrong.

"It was terrifying," Krisztina said. "I didn’t know if it was a medication with long-term implications on his health. I still don't know that."

The family contacted CVS and, "We then filed a complaint with the Texas State Board of Pharmacy Licensing," Krisztina said.

CVS said, "We fully investigated Ms. Merritt's complaint last fall and determined that her child's prescription was filled correctly. A thorough review of the safety procedures during the filling of the prescription in question found that all steps were performed correctly and no error was made. We informed Ms. Merritt of our findings in November."

The case is not closed yet. The State Pharmacy Board is still investigating.

For months, Channel 2 Investigates poured through complaints about prescription errors.

By law, pharmacies are not required to report complaints. Most of the time, complaints come voluntarily from doctors or patients.

The CVS pharmacy on the 9500 block of Broadway in Pearland had the most complaints in our area -- five since 2010.

The Walgreens on the 6800 block of South Fry road in Katy received four complaints.

"We see, it's a wide range," said Allison Vordenbaumen Benz, R.Ph., M.S., director of professional services with the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. "All the way from something that involves a miscount. If the patient was supposed to receive 30 tablets and they only received 28. They might have the wrong directions for use on the prescription label, they might have a situation where one patient gets another patient's prescription or it's the wrong drug, or it's the right drug but the wrong strength."

While a miscount might sound insignificant, mistakes like this can be deadly.

"Fortunately, that does not happen very often," Benz said.

Channel 2 Investigates also found three complaints filed against the CVS on the 3800 block of Old Spanish Trail. In one case, the patient was "bedridden and experiencing end-stage liver failure."

After receiving the wrong medicine, the patient became "non-responsive" and was hospitalized for 15 days.

The pharmacy is now on a two-year probation.

Board action can range from a warning letter to losing a license.

View Document: Dispensing Error Guidelines

So how can you help prevent pharmacy mistakes?

1. Talk to your pharmacist. Ask the pharmacist to look at the drug and dosage before you leave.
2. Look at the insert that comes with the medication. Compare the shape, size, markings and color of the medicine before you take it.

"Never, ever take it for granted that the prescription you fill and pick up is exactly what you think it is," Krisztina said.

CVS also told Channel 2 Investigates "Errors are very rare, but when they happen we investigate to determine how it occurred as part of our process of continual improvement."

When you discover a problem, it's important to file a complaint, which you can do here.

CVS's complete statement:

"The health and well-being of our patients is our number one priority. Our pharmacists follow comprehensive quality assurance processes to ensure prescription safety and accuracy. Every prescription dispensed at CVS Pharmacy undergoes a multi-step review by a pharmacist prior to being dispensed to a patient.

We fully investigated Ms. Merritt's complaint last fall and determined that her child's prescription was filled correctly. A thorough review of the safety procedures during the filling of the prescription in question found that all steps were performed correctly and no error was made. We informed Ms. Merritt of our findings in November. In addition, we resolved the complaint concerning the 4-year old incident that occurred at our Old Spanish Trail pharmacy with the Board of Pharmacy back in 2014 and took corrective action with the pharmacy.

As a health care company that strives to help people on their path to better health, we seek out new technology and innovations to enhance safety, we engage with industry experts for independent evaluations of our systems, and we are committed to continually improving our processes to help ensure that prescriptions are dispensed safely and accurately.

Prescription errors are a very rare occurrence, but when they happen we do everything we can to take care of the patient's needs, including contacting their prescriber to address any health concerns. In addition, we require our pharmacies to report such events to the company’s patient safety organization as part of our program to learn from these incidents and continuously improve quality and patient safety."

Walgreen's complete statement:

"The four complaints at the store inquired about occurred between 2008 and 2011. In two of those cases the Texas State Board of Pharmacy concluded its investigation by dismissing the complaints with no disciplinary action taken.  With all prescriptions filled in our pharmacy, our first concern is always the patient’s well-being. We take this issue very seriously and have a multi-step prescription filling process with numerous safety checks in each step to reduce the chance of human error. In the event an error occurs, we investigate what happened and work to prevent it from happening again."

About the Authors:

Award-winning broadcast journalist covering local, regional, national and international stories. Recognized in the industry for subject matter expertise including: Legal/Court Research, the Space Industry, Education, Environmental Issues, Underserved Populations and Data Visualization.

Award-winning journalist, adventure seeker, explorer, dog lover.