Heather Sparling
Heather Sparling

(NaturalSociety) Many of us avoid prescription medications at all costs, but most Americans are not so put-off by the pills, syrups, patches, and capsules manufactured by Big Pharma. For them, the risk of a prescription error is very real and cause serious consequences, up to and including death. One Arizona woman was fortunate enough to not suffer the worse side effects of a prescription mix-up, but did face sheer stupidity from the pharmacy who gave her the wrong medications.

“Well, you know, they both begin with H,” Heather Sparling was told by the pharmacist at Walgreens in Surprise, Ariz. to explain the flub that could have resulted tragically.

Sparling had received four prescriptions to battle an ear infection, a sinus infection, an inflamed liver, and hives. She has an autoimmune disease, so taking medications is nothing new for her. She picked up her pills and took them as directed for two days when she noticed she wasn’t feeling any better. It was then she received a call from the pharmacy.

The phone call was to inform Sparling that she had been given blood pressure medication instead of one of her intended scripts. First the pharmacy staff chalked it up to not being able to read the doctor’s handwriting.

“The prescription was printed out,” Sparling told them. Then, they tried to explain the error by saying both medications started with the letter H.

In the U.S., some 82% of adults take at least one prescription medication. Another 29% take five or more. Mistakes are bound to happen. But when we’re talking about drugs that cause problems even when they’re taken by the patients they are intended for (referring to the countless side effects), the risk of an adverse event in someone who shouldn’t be on them is even more frightening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 700,000 emergency room visits and 120,000 hospital admissions each year due to these adverse events. These could be caused by simple side effects, accidental overdoses, or prescription errors like the one Sparling experienced.

Federal and state laws do not require pharmacists to report mistakes like Sparlings to any agency; they aren’t required to report them at all. And it’s this lack of responsibility that only stands to make the statistics worse.

As for that Walgreens in Surprise, Arizona, they issued a statement to the media:

“We’re sorry this occurred and we apologized to the patient. We have a multistep prescription filling process with numerous safety checks in each step to reduce the chance of human error. We reviewed this incident and will work to prevent it from happening again.”


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