New audit reveals frequency of prescription errors in New York

Every year, people in New York City and across the state are prescribed medications by their physicians to combat a wide range of illnesses. When filling a prescription, New Yorkers must not only trust that their doctors are prescribing the appropriate medication, but also that the pharmacists are closely following the doctors' instructions.

According to a recent audit completed by the State Comptroller's Office, there are actually many mistakes made throughout the process of obtaining a prescription medication in New York. The audit inspected medications that were prescribed during the period from April 1, 2007 to March 8, 2012 in New York. In total, the auditors looked at approximately 22 million prescriptions of the 218 million issued during that period. Of those, they found errors with 325,000 prescriptions.

The types of prescription errors made varied, according to the audit. For instance, of the prescriptions examined, 135 had been written by individuals who lacked a valid medical license. A much more common occurrence - over 90,000 of the prescriptions examined - were refilled 157,000 times, above the amount allowed by the physician's prescription. Another 130,000 prescriptions did not have a valid Drug Enforcement Administration number. In addition, approximately 180,000 prescriptions were found twice, meaning they were filled either at more than one pharmacy or without accurate information.

How will New York prevent future prescription errors?

In response to these concerning statistics, action has been taken in New York to prevent prescription errors. Last year, a bill was signed into law, commonly referred to as the I-STOP law.

I-STOP Act, which stands for the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, is targeted at stopping prescription drug abuse and increasing oversight to prevent prescription errors. When implemented, the law will allow physicians and pharmacists to track prescribed medications in "real time." Under the I-STOP program, all prescriptions will be submitted electronically and additional steps will be taken to prevent the abuse of certain types of medications.

These safeguards are critical, considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate that over 36,000 deaths in 2008 were caused by drug overdoses, most of which involved prescription medications. In addition, the New York attorney general has reported that prescriptions for narcotic painkillers in New York rose to 22.5 million in 2010 from 16.6 million in 2007.

Protect your health, report prescription errors

What does this mean for those who require prescription medications? It is always best for consumers to be proactive in protecting their well-being. For instance, patients should ask their doctors about the medications they are being prescribed. In addition, patients should always check the prescription bottle after picking up a medication, to ensure it is accurate. If you believe you have been the victim of a prescription error, consulting with a skilled New York personal injury attorney will ensure your rights are protected.

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