Report: Pharmacists dispensing dangerous drug combos

January 9, 2017

Walgreens, CVS Health and other drug chains promised to improve procedures after a Chicago Tribune investigation found that pharmacists at several retail chains filled prescriptions with dangerous drug combinations.

Walgreens, CVS Health and other drug chains promised to improve procedures after a Chicago Tribune investigation found that pharmacists at several retail chains filled prescriptions with dangerous drug combinations.

In its investigation, the newspaper tested 255 Chicago-area pharmacies to see how often stores would dispense dangerous drug pairs without warning patients. The investigation found that 52% of pharmacies dispensed drugs without warning about potential dangerous interactions.

For example, pharmacists at an Evanston CVS pharmacy filled a script for the antibiotic clarithromycin and one for the anti-cholesterol drug simvastatin (Zocor) together, without warning the reporter of the potential fatal side effects such as kidney failure when taking the two drugs together.
The tests were conducted at Wal-Mart, CVS Health, Walgreens, Target, Kmart, Costco, Jewel-Osco and Mariano’s – as well as at independent pharmacies.

Independent pharmacies had the highest failure rate at 72%, followed by CVS at 63% and Target at 62%. Walgreens had the lowest failure rate at 30%.

CVS Health is “very disappointed” with the investigation’s results, the chain said in a statement issued to Drug Topics. As a result, CVS Health is making several changes “to dramatically increase the number of interventions our pharmacists will make with patients or their prescribers regarding potential drug interactions.”

CVS Health changes include:

1.    For DUR alerts with the greatest potential safety risks, pharmacists will be required to intervene by consulting with the patient or their prescriber to resolve any potential issues that may exist with the prescription(s) involved. 

 


2.    In these cases, “our system will not allow the medication to be dispensed until the pharmacist has certified that the appropriate prescriber or patient consultation has occurred,” CVS Health said.    

3.    The retailer will conduct a comprehensive education and certification program for all of its pharmacists on “the enhancements and changes to our DUR system and processes that we are making.”

Walgreens is “taking a number of proactive steps, such as looking at how we can accelerate current pharmacy improvement initiatives, and also reinforce the importance of patient consultations and interventions to consistently deliver the highest levels of patient care,” Jim Cohn, a spokesman for Walgreens, told Drug Topics.

The investigation “will help us advance our pharmacy quality initiatives, which already include numerous safety checks in each step of our multi-step prescription filling process that helps to reduce the chance of human error,” Cohn said.