, Salem, MA


July 26, 2013

Vet Connection: Pharmacy mistakes can harm our pets

CNN has reported that 30 million dispensing errors happen at outpatient pharmacies for human patients each year. That’s about 1 percent of the 3 billion prescriptions written annually. Unfortunately, it appears that people aren’t the only victims of these mistakes ... our pets now get the wrong doses or even the wrong drugs as pet owners search for new places to fill their pet prescriptions.

When national surveys are done, pharmacists continually rank high when it comes to trust, honesty and ethics. Whether it’s your pharmacy professional at the locally owned corner store or the one at the corporate big-box store, this profession consistently outranks doctors, engineers and even the clergy! Like veterinarians, pharmacists are viewed as compassionate and caring by the general public.

However, increasing numbers of news reports detailing mistakes made by human pharmacies dispensing pet medications has both professions concerned. In some cases, there was no noticeable effect and the pets were fine, but serious illnesses, severe complications and even deaths have occurred. How widespread is this issue?

Thankfully, in the vast majority of prescriptions sent to pharmacists from veterinarians, the dosage and medication is delivered as expected, and the pet gets exactly what is needed. It’s only when drugs are changed, generics substituted or dosing altered that problems occur.

In a recent survey completed by the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), more than one-third of the veterinarians surveyed reported incidents of pharmacists from either retail or online pharmacies changing the prescription. In a highly publicized case from Los Angeles, an 8-year-old Labrador was euthanized after the drugstore altered the dose of a veterinarian’s prescription, changing the “cubic centimeters” (or “cc”) to teaspoons. This pet ended up receiving almost four times the amount of medication needed, which compounded his other, already serious health issues.

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