Pharmacy Dispensing Errors: What Happens When You Get the Wrong Medication?


Studies estimate that pharmacies make millions of medication dispensing mistakes each year in the United States.  Some errors are minor, some are discovered by savvy patients, and other errors are more significant and cause injury or death.  In fact, one study showed that dispensing errors occur at a rate of ~4 errors/day in a pharmacy that fills 250 prescriptions/day.  That translates into over 50 million errors out of 3 billion prescriptions each year.1  Indeed, studies estimate that approximately 1.5 million people are harmed by medication dispensing errors each year.

While there are no official national nor regional medication error rates, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are working together to track and prevent medication errors.

Why are there so many medication dispensing errors?

Prescription drug errors can be caused by mistakes during the transcription or dispensing process.  According to the ISMP, some of the most common reasons behind these errors are:

  • Mistakes in transcription
  • Poor labeling
  • Lack of consistent terminology
  • Same or similar abbreviations and medication names
  • Different formulations of brand versus generic medications
  • Mislabeled instructions

How can you protect yourself and your family?

Here are a few ways you can help protect yourself and your family from pharmacy dispensing errors:

  • Ask your physician for the specifics of any medication he or she prescribes.  Take notes so you can ensure accuracy.
  • Always check your prescription to ensure that the medication is correct.  Open each prescription and confirm that each medication matches the description and prescribed instructions  from your physician.
  • Avoid getting prescriptions filled at large, crowded pharmacies when possible.  Find a pharmacist who can spend time to consult with you.
  • Request that your physician either write or send the prescription electronically.  (According to some studies, phone prescriptions may be more error-prone.)
  • Maintain a list of all medications you are taking.  Be sure to include all prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and other supplements including vitamins and minerals.  Bring the list with you and review the list with your medical practitioner or pharmacist before accepting any medications.
  • Learn how and where to find reliable information on prescribed medications and research them before consuming.

Is there any liability involved if a pharmacist dispenses the incorrect drug, flawed medication labeling, or the incorrect dosage? 

These types of cases depend on whether the patient consumed the incorrect medication or dosage and if he or she was injured as a result.  We can help guide you through the legal process.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a pharmacy error, follow these steps:

  1. Call 911 or your medical provider immediately to obtain proper medical care.
  2. Carefully save the prescription and any related documentation.
  3. Contact  Goldman & Daszkal, P.A. for experienced legal advice at (954) 428-9333 or

1 (National observational study of prescription dispensing accuracy and safety in 50 pharmacies.  Flynn EA1Barker KNCarnahan BJ. , J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash).2003 Mar-Apr;43(2):191-200.)

Do you have questions about a pharmacy dispensing a prescription drug incorrectly?  Goldman & Daszkal, P.A. can answer them.  Contact us at (954) 428-9333 or

Goldman & Daszkal, P.A.

Since 1990, Goldman & Daszkal, P.A. has provided reputable legal representation to people throughout Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties.  The firm has helped thousands of individuals recover compensation from motor vehicle and boating accidents, slip and fall accidents, product defect and liability cases, pharmacy errors, and negligent security cases to cover medical expenses, pay bills, take care of their families, and return to work.  Goldman & Daszkal, P.A. can help you get the relief you need to start living your life again after a serious injury.  For a free and confidential consultation, contact Goldman & Daszkal, P.A., at (954) 428-9333.