Busy Pharmacists May Overlook Potential Drug Interactions
How overworked is your pharmacist? A study published in the May issue of the journal Medical Care suggests you may want to pay attention. Researchers at the University of Arizona found that as the number of prescriptions pharmacists filled each hour increased, so did the risk that customers would walk away with medicine that might interact harmfully with something else they're taking.
By analyzing information from 672 pharmacies in 18 major metropolitan areas across the country, the team found that the typical pharmacist filled approximately 14 prescriptions per hour. With each additional one, the risk of dispensing a potentially harmful drug went up by 3 percent. At some pharmacies, almost 10 percent of prescriptions filled were potentially problematic. "Something has to go when they're processing that many prescriptions," says Daniel Malone, lead researcher and pharmacy professor at the University of Arizona. "We think attention to [potential drug] interactions is one of those things."
Most pharmacies' computer systems flash an alert when a customer orders a drug that might result in a harmful interaction. But the prompt may be overlooked when lines are long. And pharmacists don't always stop to ask questions about a person's diet and any over-the-counter drugs or herbal supplements he or she might be taking. Even grapefruit, acetaminophen, and Saint-John's-wort can change how certain drugs work, says James Wilson, associate professor of pharmacy at the University of TexasAustin. "Get them to stop and ask you the questions."