More Fatal Medication Errors Found at Beginning of Month

Published Online: Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) recently commented on "A Spike in Fatal Errors at the Beginning of Each Month." The independent analysis was reported in Pharmacotherapy (January 2005). The research findings suggested that fatal medication errors rise by 25% at the beginning of each month at retail pharmacies.

The findings were based on the examination of 47 million death certificates from 1979 to 2000. A cause for the rise in errors is that, "because there is an increased pharmacy workload at the beginning of each month, some pharmacists may be unusually prone to error in the filling and labeling of prescriptions and may have less time than usual to explain necessary precautions to their patients," said the investigators.

The researchers offered the following recommendations to reduce potentially deadly medications at retail pharmacies and to save lives:

• When filling prescriptions at the start of each month, patients "should be especially careful to check the accuracy" of the prescription, and "intensified checking" should be practiced by the clinical staff

• Pharmacists who do not already use this practice "might consider" having more staff at the beginning of each month

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