I recently came across a very disturbing article in a veterinary publication about the errors being made by human pharmacists when filling prescriptions from a veterinarian. The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) conducted a survey to determine how often mistakes are occurring; and the results are horrifying! Examples of these errors include:

• Changing Insulin. Pharmacists may substitute a cheaper product for the prescribed insulin. They do not understand that the many different types of insulin are not interchangeable. Using the wrong product may cause serious problems for pets.

• Thyroid hormone dosage changes. Human thyroid dosages are much lower than those needed for dogs, but retail pharmacists don’t know that. Pharmacists have reduced dosages, believing them to be too high based on human physiology. The dog  then suffers because the treatment is inadequate.

• Phenobarbital dosed incorrectly. At least one dog died because the pharmacist deliberately reduced the prescribed dose of the common seizure medication.

• Acetominophen (Tylenol) danger. Pharmacists have substituted acetominophen-containing products for the veterinary-prescribed medication, or even recommended Tylenol for pets to their customers. This drug is extremely toxic to pets.

• Pharmacy errors–both accidental and on purpose. In several cases noted by the study, pharmacists misread the prescription or carelessly pulled the wrong bottle or wrong drug strength to fill prescriptions. They also deliberately revised client instructions; gave customers incorrect advice; or changed dosages or medications even when the prescription read, “No substitution.”

Human pharmacists are not trained in comparative physiology or veterinary pharmocology; veterinarians are. While many drugs are used for both people and pets, there may be critical differences in how drugs are metabolized or what toxicities may occur between species. Anyone filling prescriptions can make a mistake. But it appears that some pharmacists working on the human side may deliberately change veterinarians’ prescription, and they may give veterinary advice that is incorrect–both of which have harmed or killed many animals.

The Oregon study is just the latest one; several other surveys across the U.S. have found similar problems. If you choose to have your pet’s prescription filled at a human pharmacy, be sure to instruct the pharmacist to call the veterinarian if there is any question about it. Make sure you understand what your pet is being given and why; and if the pharmacist suggests anything different, call the veterinarian immediately. Always check the bottle before you leave the pharmacy. Once the bottle goes out the door, federal law prohibits returning it, so even if it’s wrong, you can’t get your money back. Your vigilance could save your pet’s life!

See the full article at DVM Newsmagazine.

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