Local 2 Investigates pharmacy prescription mistakes

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Taking a prescription is a daily routine for so many of us, but we don't always double check to make sure we're getting the correct medication.

Not taking that small extra step can have devastating consequences. Local 2 Investigates found pharmacy mistakes happening across the state and discovered big loopholes in how they're tracked.

The crash that killed Mary Barnes was horrible. Her husband Alonza Barnes was driving. State records say a pharmacist mistakenly sent him home with sleeping medication instead of his prescribed blood pressure pills. He blacked out and crashed.

The pharmacist's license was suspended for two years.

Dianna Posthauer says she's lucky to be around to bake cookies.

"It could have happened to me. I just feel like by the grace of God, I'm still here to talk to you," said Posthauer.

Instead of an antibiotic, her pharmacist gave her meds to treat type 2 diabetes.

"I started getting very shaky, nauseous and cold sweat," she said.

Her doctor told her it caused her blood sugar levels to drop.

"He says, 'This was very dangerous. You could have gone into a diabetic coma,'" Posthauer said.

Local 2 went through dozens of pharmacist disciplinary actions and found others have gotten sick.

A pharmacist in Plano should have given 5mg of a medicine, but instead gave 50mg causing "nausea, anxiety and tremors."

A Spring pharmacist told a mom to give her baby double the maximum dose of acid reflux medication.

A Channelview man had to go to the hospital for nose bleeds and bloody urine after a pharmacy mistake.

Those are only the pharmacy cases we know about. Texas doesn't require pharmacists to report mistakes. It only investigates when a patient or insurance company notifies the pharmacy board.

"There's really no source of data on prescription errors," said University of Houston Pharmacy Professor Marc Fleming.

He says some studies suggest out of 100 prescriptions, three to five have some type of error. But no one knows for sure.

"Pharmacists are human like anyone else," said Gay Dodson, Texas Pharmacy Board Director.

We asked Dodson if Texans would be safer if we knew how often errors were happening and she replied, "We've never had a bill introduced for that and there's never been a suggestion for that. I am not aware of any state that has a requirement."

She says if lawmakers passed a bill, her office would find a way to track all mistakes.

"I think it would be helpful in the long run. That way we could easily understand how much it's happening," said Fleming. "We would understand what resources we need to devote to making these improvements in pharmacy practices."

Posthauer would like to know if her pharmacist has had previous problems.

"You know in my mind, I wonder if he's done it 15 times," she said.

She says it's not all his fault though. She takes responsibility for taking the wrong pills too.

"I didn't pay one bit of attention to it. If I can tell anybody one thing, 'I don't care how sick you are, you read the bottle," said Posthauer.

Here are three ways to keep you safe, and they might sound obvious, but how many of us really do it? Ask your doctor what he or she is prescribing and how much you should take. At the pharmacy, talk to the pharmacist anytime you get a new prescription. At home, make sure your pills match the description on the bottle and the paperwork.

Copyright 2014 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.