Oklahoma Pharmacy Board Investigating Chain Pharmacies, Staffing Levels
Preston Jenkins thought his pharmacist substituted a generic version of his insulin prescription last November.
“My life depends on the medicine I take,” Jenkins said. “Without insulin, I don’t exist.”
He has been dependent on the injections for 14 years.
“We got to checking and found out that it was not a substitute, that they have given me the wrong insulin,” Jenkins said.
The Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy confirmed it is investigating chain pharmacies, like the one Jenkins went to, for inadequate staffing levels, creating a stressful work environment for pharmacists.
According to the New York Times, state pharmacy boards and associations in at least 24 states have received complaints from pharmacists.
“I talk with some of my pharmacist friends who work for chains, some of their staffing has been cut by 50 percent,” pharmacist Greg Clyde said. “More mistakes are going to happen.”
He believes staff reductions are being made in an effort to increase profit margins.
Clyde worked at a chain pharmacy for 10 years before opening his own store. He said many of his former colleagues are afraid to blow the whistle.
“When I talk to my pharmacist friends who still work in those environments, they describe the workload, they are working on things from a week ago instead of things today,” Clyde said.
CVS Pharmacy issued a statement responding to the Times investigation, saying in part,
“Patient safety is our highest priority. Everyone at CVS Health, including our more than 30,000 pharmacists, approaches this responsibility with the utmost seriousness and dedication. We work hard, every day, to earn the trust of our patients and customers as we help them on their path to better health.”
Clyde said things like over-the-counter immunizations, sicker patients, and more complex conditions, combined with aggressive staffing cuts, created a recipe for disaster.
Another issue of concern to Clyde is the rapid turnover of pharmacy technicians who help prepare medication for pharmacists.
“What I saw when I was in chain pharmacy, more errors are happening before they even get to the pharmacist,” Clyde said. “The more errors you see before the pharmacist gets it, the more likely there’s going to be an error that gets out of the pharmacy.”
In Choctaw, Jenkins and his wife were able to catch the error before he injected the medication.
“If I had taken the amount that I usually take of the (normal prescription), it would have probably put me in a diabetic coma,” Jenkins said.
Pharmacists like Clyde urge patients to be extra vigilant.
“Check your medication,” Clyde said. “If your tablet has changed from a white tablet to a green tablet, ask questions.”