I’ve had some events happen that have been weighing on me so I wanted to write a post to get a discussion going.
If you’ve read any of this blog, you will know that I have diagnosed mental illnesses – Bipolar disorder, Borderline Personality disorder, Generalized Anxiety disorder and a specific phobia. I’ve had these conditions for many years and am using several methods to help treat them.
Due to my many conditions and their severity, part of my treatment is a regimen of several medications. Over the years the type of drugs, dosages, and combinations have been changed more times than I can count. In fact, my doctor is still tweaking all these years later. This happens for several reasons but isn’t the point of my post, so I won’t discuss it here.
For these meds, I had been using a particular pharmacy near my home for years. They knew me when I came in and the assistants were always very friendly and helpful. Over the years, minor inconveniences happened. For example, they knew that I took a certain medication and filled it every month yet they never had it in stock when I was due for a refill, and the pharmacy owner changed a few times while I was a client there. But overall, I was happy with their service.
That is, I was happy. One day a few months ago, I went to the pharmacy to fill a prescription as I only had a few pills left at home. The assistant told me that I wasn’t due for a refill and when I explained to her that I only had a few pills left, she did her job and spoke with the pharmacist.
Instead of coming over to assist me, the pharmacist yelled over the counter at me, letting the entire store hear my business. Instead of admitting that they potentially made a mistake and gave me only a portion of my prescription (which they were known to have done), she accused me of abusing my medications. I was completely infuriated and embarrassed. She first asked if I may have made a mistake, I said that I had not because the pills were different colours so I kept track of what I took. She then kept proceeding with her questioning until she got to lashing accusations at me, including calling me a drug abuser.
I immediately left the pharmacy in tears and started looking for a new pharmacy. I couldn’t believe that someone would yell this at me across the pharmacy. It was extremely unprofessional and I was appalled at being accused and called an abuser when I had never once had an issue with taking proper dosages and I know I am very careful of my medications. Because of one error on their part, I was publicly humiliated. I will say that I am aware that it is possible for individuals to mess up their medications as much as it is possible for pharmacies to mess up dosages, but the fact that they went straight to abuse was insulting.
From there, I decided on a small pharmacy that came recommended by a friend of the family. I knew one of the pharmacy assistants and everyone I came in contact with was pleasant, so it started off well.
Gradually, the new pharmacy let things slip. They would fill my prescriptions and not be able to find them behind the counter. They would lose faxes from my doctors office (and admit they lost them). They would switch the dosage of the pills they had given me so I needed to take a different number of pills and forget to tell me, so I’d find out when the pills looked different and I specifically read the labels.
Because of these small issues, I made it a habit of reading the labels every time. In case you aren’t aware, many psychiatric medications are very dangerous. There is the possibility for bad side effects, withdrawal, addiction, and even overdose if the wrong amounts are taken.
One day I got home with my medications and was about to take my night-time dosage when I was reading the label of a newly filled prescription. The pharmacy had incorrectly done addition to make up a dosage on the label, making the total dosage incorrect. Had I not read the label and checked the pills, I could very easily have overdosed. It wouldn’t have been enough to kill me, but it would have been enough that I would have experienced side effects including no sleep (which is related to a manic episode in those with bipolar disorder), a horrible next day with shakes, stomach aches, and blurred vision, brain zaps, and more, due to the change in dosage.
The moral of this story is to be vigilant when checking and taking your medications. I lodged a complaint with the first pharmacy but nobody was held accountable because it was the pharmacy owner who accused me. My next move is going to be contacting the college of pharmacists to report the ineptitude of pharmacists in my area.
I am well aware that people make mistakes. I am also aware that I take many medications every day, so it is a lot for them to keep track of. But pharmacists need to be held accountable because people can die if they continue to make these serious mistakes. Luckily I have been able to stay on top of this but when I get into an episode it is much easier to make a mistake so I rely on them to be accurate and make it easier for me to take my medications properly.
What do you think? Should pharmacists be held accountable? How can we attack this problem to ensure that people don’t suffer consequences from wrong medications and/or dosages. Let’s open the dialogue!