Letters to the editor

May 22, 2006

I was presented with a prescription that was taken in by awell-trained technician. The technician, noting that theprescription was for a very young child, brought the prescriptionto me to check before typing. The prescription was written for atwo-year-old child whom the doctor had seen in the emergency room.The doctor has ordered albuterol, and, as pharmacists, we all knowhow dangerous albuterol can be for the young ones. The prescriptionwas perfectly written and correct in every respect, although thedosage was in the high-end range for a two-year-old.

I was presented with a prescription that was taken in by a well-trained technician. The technician, noting that the prescription was for a very young child, brought the prescription to me to check before typing. The prescription was written for a two-year-old child whom the doctor had seen in the emergency room. The doctor has ordered albuterol, and, as pharmacists, we all know how dangerous albuterol can be for the young ones. The prescription was perfectly written and correct in every respect, although the dosage was in the high-end range for a two-year-old.

As it turned out, the name written on the prescription was for the mother's two-month-old baby boy, rather than her two-year-old. I don't know how the two-year-old's name ended up on the prescription, but I'm glad I was there at our pharmacy to avert that error.

I'm sharing this anecdote with you because it's a good example of how human intervention can intercept an error that a machine can't. How could a machine get a "good ole' gut feeling" about a prescription that was written correctly, the only problem being a confused mother identifying two different children as the same person?

We have automation in our pharmacy right now and much of it is beneficial to us. Complete automation in pharmacy, however, would be, in my opinion, a complete disaster and too dangerous a proposition to allow. If we cut down on the number of pharmacists and technicians and replace them with complete automation, we run the risk of failure in our duty as healthcare specialists. When it comes to pharmacy, there is no substitute for the human touch. After all, we're talking about your health, my health, everyone's health.

Alan Berger, R.Ph.
Spring Hill, Fla.

Still skeptical about homeopathy

Regarding your March 6 Viewpoint, "Consider homeopathy for your practice," by Steve Odes, R.Ph., DIH, most healthcare professionals see homeopathy in the role of a placebo. I have seen no controlled studies demonstrating the efficacy of homeopathic remedies for the treatment of any disease condition. Homeopathy demands a leap of faith that water retains memory of previously dissolved, highly diluted, "active" ingredients through some mechanism not recognized by modern science. The therapeutic use of placebos in uncontrolled, non-study settings is considered unethical. Therefore, the use of homeopathic remedies in disease treatment is unethical and creates a situation of the denial of efficacious treatment.

Marion Hoar
Consultant pharmacist
Haydenville, Mass.
nhoar@verizon.net

Author's reply: There have been no homeopathic product recalls in over 200 years of clinical prescribing, so any discussion of unethical medical practice should be limited to the allopathic model. Successful homeopathic prescribing requires individualized therapy and therefore does not fit the allopathic model of double-blind crossover studies where each group is assigned the same drug or placebo. (Drug companies do not fund homeopathic studies because there is no return on investment for nonpatentable substances-all-natural products.) The basic issue revolves around two different notions about how one acquires knowledge: science or authority. Call it "see for myself" or "take your word for it."

To skeptics, I suggest these basic scientific principles: Study the theory, observe the experiments, analyze the data using inductive reasoning, then ask yourself, "Why can't that happen?" Listen to your own thinking and dare to know. The educated mind does not accept easy answers in the face of contradictory evidence.