She held her crying daughter in her arms. Her 7-year-old clutched her throbbing head.
The fever also hadn’t broken. The “on hold” music had been going far too long and was grinding on her nerves. She rolled one of the pills around in her fingers. It was then she noticed the tiny writing on the white tablet and held her breath.
Vanessa Gilbertson was quite used to going to the CVS pharmacy in her Minnesota area.
Having two children and a baby meant sniffles and other health issues were a normal part of daily life. This time, it was a pretty bad ear infection. No one had got any sleep for days.
They waited in line while her daughter sat on a faded plastic chair. Aching, burning, oozing, and “Mom, my head feels full” had been the main highlights of the ride into town.
Apparently there was something going around because the pharmacy line was extra-long and the worker looked frazzled. Bottles were shoved into bags and money quickly stuffed into the register.
Still, the trip was a success and they went home. The evening was supposed to be calmer since her daughter would have pain killers and maybe some rest.
However, the morning brought no improvement. Vanessa stared at the thermometer and grabbed the phone. The girl was burning up. Something was wrong.
While she waited for a human to answer the phone, she took a closer look at the bottle.
The label read ibuprofen … but then she read the manufacture’s label. Her eyes went wide. It was amoxicillin. The problem? She was already been giving her daughter a full doses. Now the girl had ingested double.
The pharmacy worker got more than an earful. She had screamed so loud into the phone that the customers on the other end probably heard.
The man apologized and fixed the problem. You would think the problem ends there, but a few months later, Vanessa runs into another mix-up. This time with her baby.
Her 5-month-old was suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease.
For an adult, it can be agony but imagine a baby going through the burning, acidic sting, and persistent feeling like something is caught in your throat – all the while having no idea what’s going on. The doctor finally gave her a prescription.
The poor thing cried until it was horse and passed out from exhaustion.
It only got worse when the symptoms didn’t pass and the pain stayed. The first call was to the doctor who said it should have been working by then. Vanessa remembered that last pharmacy issue and looked at the bottle again.
The manufacturer’s info was correct. The label was correct.
She called the CVS again and asked what to do, but it was the standard regurgitation of “call your doctor”. Visits and medicine were already costing her a fortune. Then, she stared at the fine print and saw the shocking truth.
The medicine was expired.
Yes, some people say that medicine lasts much longer than the suggested label, but it’s not a blanket statement for every pill and syrup. The pharmacy got another furious phone call … so did the head office. What was their response?
It’s exactly what you would expect – a soulless corporate response.
All the key buzzwords were there – “We value our customer’s health and safety”, “Events like these are rare”, and so on. However, if you look into CVS complain history, we can see it’s not as rare as they claim.
One teenager had been taking what she thought was her normal asthma medication.
Two days later, she started to feel a pounding in her heart. “Mom, there’s someone else’s name on my bottle.” She was rushed to hospital where they found out she was taking blood pressure pills. She’s not alone…
One man claims he was given quick-release pills instead of the needed slow-release ones.
It might sound unimportant until we learn that the customer needed them for his epilepsy seizures. There’s even a “what to do” guide in these cases from one law firm.
“Prescription fluoride tablets for children were mixed with the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen.”
“High blood pressure pills were replaced with schizophrenia medication. In addition, prescription drugs for high blood pressure were replaced with cholesterol drugs,” says BC&G Law Firm. What can the rest of us do?
First, take nothing for granted. We put 100% of our trust in our healthcare providers.
However, the system is a human one. There’s always the risk of mistakes. Make sure to read the details on your medication carefully and never be afraid to go back and double-check. It could save someone’s life.