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FDA proposal may impact prescription errors

A prescription typically requires the involvement of several health care professionals. A doctor initiates the process by diagnosing a patient's condition. A nurse may transcribe a doctor's notes and send the authorization to a pharmacy. A pharmacist, in turn, must correctly label the medication and ensure its accuracy. Of course, mistakes can be made anywhere along that chain of communication.

A new proposal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand over-the-counter drugs is seen by some as increasing the likelihood of prescription errors. Drugs for chronic conditions, like asthma and allergies, would be sold from the pharmacy counter. In a sense, patients would be empowered to self-diagnosis both their condition and their treatment, in the form of medication. In some instances, pharmacists might be required to verify a patient's need for the nonprescription drugs.

At a public meeting convened earlier this year, the FDA sought feedback from health and physician organizations about the proposal. Although the FDA believes the change might eliminate unnecessary doctor visits and improve patient access to medications, at least one group disagrees. The American Medical Association House of Delegates recently adopted a policy in opposition to any legislation that would allow pharmacists to prescribe medication absent a valid doctor's order. The group also opposes any proposals to permit pharmacists to renew or dispense medication beyond the original expiration.

In today's busy clinics and hospitals, doctors and pharmacists are overwhelmed with high patient loads and ever-growing responsibilities. One such responsibility is keeping abreast of the latest medications -- and how those drugs might interact with existing medications. New drugs are approved every year by the FDA, so it can be difficult for doctors to stay abreast of the latest research.

If you were injured because you were prescribed the wrong medication or wrong combination of drugs, an attorney can help you obtain a recovery and hold accountable those health care professionals who were negligent.

Source: American Medical News, "Delegates oppose giving pharmacists authority to prescribe drugs," Alicia Gallegos, July 2, 2012

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