Pharmacies need to go back to enhancing their customers’ health, and instead of profits, they should be incentivized to improve patient care, according to an expert.
“Setting quotas for pharmacies is a dangerous practice that ultimately hurts patient care,” said Reuben Saba, Vice President of medical and business affairs at Medicure. “It leads to pharmacist burnout and creates a bad customer experience.”
Saba was reacting to an LA Times report, which found California pharmacies make an estimated 5 million errors yearly with most of them occurring at retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.
“Our healthcare system is broken, and quotas are just one of the many problems,” Saba told OrangeCountyLawyers.com.
For example, the report found that one patient was given a bottle of Valtrex instead of the Keflex that the doctor prescribed from the CVS on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood.
Other problems include handling hundreds of prescriptions a day as well as administering vaccinations, coordinating with doctor’s offices to confirm prescriptions, and filling orders from the drive through.
“That means less time for patients to actually ask questions,” Saba said in an interview. “If a patient doesn’t know why they are taking a medication you can’t expect them to stay compliant.”
91% of California licensed pharmacists employed at a chain pharmacy reported under-staffing that prevented them from providing adequate patient care, according to the LA Times report, and only 62% of those pharmacists said stores were engaged in internally tracking errors and consistently informing customers of errors. Saba blames the fact that three companies own more than 80% of the pharmacy/insurance market share and their keen interest in keeping shareholders happy by earning more money.
“Chain pharmacies are in the business of making money and they do a great job of it,” he said. “Pharmacies make money by filling prescriptions. The more prescriptions they fill, the more money they make.”
To address the rise in errors, Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) introduced Assembly Bill 1286 to require the tracking of pharmacy mistakes by a non-governmental third party.
Under the legislation, pharmacy owners or managers would have the authority to hire more staff to relieve burdens that could endanger patient safety, but it was not supported by the California Community Pharmacy Coalition, according to media reports, due to the strict pharmacy staffing requirements and an unwillingness to allow the pharmacy board access to error reports.
“Instead of filling the maximum number of prescriptions for the biggest profit, we should be looking at medication adherence to chronic care medications and by giving pharmacists enough bandwidth to provide medication consults so patients understand why they are taking a medication,” Saba said.
He added that pharmacies need to start acting more ethically and pricing their medications fairly like at Marley Drug, an online pharmacy in North Carolina owned by Medicure where medications are priced solely based on what it costs to buy them.
“There is no reason why our pharmacy, Marley Drug, can sell Abiraterone for $152 for 120 tablets, and Walgreen’s or CVS is selling it for $13,000-$20,000,” Saba concluded.
Helpful Information: If you or a family member has been injured due to a medical or pharmaceutical error, review our listed medical malpractice lawyers who serve clients throughout Southern California.
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.