NEW YORK -- Supermarket pharmacists did not dismiss the findings of a recent ABC News program that covered customer risks at retail pharmacies, but said they received little response after the show aired.
Pharmacists questioned about the Jan. 4 episode of "PrimeTime Live," reported by co-anchor Diane Sawyer, stressed that they would continue to strive to eliminate error in an environment where mistakes are nearly inevitable. Most said the mishaps reported represent a very low percentage of the overall prescription business. Both ABC and SN are owned by Capital Cities/ABC, New York, though they have no other connection.
The "PrimeTime Live" report cited three large supermarket pharmacy operators for errors in filling prescriptions: Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla.; Hyde Park Markets, Pompano, Fla., and Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla. It also cited mass merchant Kmart Corp., Troy, Mich.
One of the "PrimeTime" pharmacy "testers" received the wrong dosage of Tegretol, an anti-seizure medication, at a Publix in Lakeland.
"In this case, a dosage error did occur, which we deeply regret," said Jennifer Bush, director of media relations for the chain, in a release. "We have reinforced our requirements with all pharmacy managers to make sure everyone understands and follows the procedures.
"Publix dispenses millions of prescriptions every year and has a documented accuracy rate of over 99%. Of course our goal is 100%," she said. "All our pharmacists are qualified professionals
who work hard to ensure prescription dispensing accuracy."
The newsmagazine also reported that a pharmacist at Hyde Park Market, which is supplied by Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, Okla., failed to counsel an undercover "Prime Time Live" tester about a potentially lethal interaction between the prescription drug Coumadin and aspirin.
Later, on camera, Sawyer questioned the supermarket pharmacist about his mistake, which he eventually admitted. Hyde Park Markets did not offer a statement when asked if it had received any feedback or lost business as a result of the show.
Sawyer interviewed a woman whose sister suffered brain damage because of a mistake allegedly made by pharmacist Herbert Miller, who worked for Eckerd, a Largo, Fla.-based drug chain. "Prime Time Live" traced Miller's employment after he resigned from Eckerd, following him to a Winn-Dixie pharmacy outside Dallas.
Winn-Dixie spokesman Mickey Clerc said Miller left the company "as of the end of 1994," but would not say if the pharmacist left voluntarily or was dismissed.
"There hasn't been any reaction to [the show]," said Clerc. "I'm not aware of anything. We might have received one or two calls."
The Food Marketing Institute and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores in Washington alerted members that the show would air in December or January, pharmacy directors said. Some food store executives said they were prepared to deal with a paranoid public after the segment was presented, but, surprisingly, consumer reaction was mild.
The pharmacy department at Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, met with the firm's consumer affairs department to devise corporate and store-level plans to deal with public reaction to the show, said Mark Polli, co-director of pharmacy.
"However, after [Prime Time Live] aired, I can't think of one phone call that we got," he said.
"I was priming myself for a huge response," said Barrett Moravec, director of pharmacy at Abco Markets, Phoenix, "but I didn't get one call here at the pharmacy office [about the show]."
Dana Greenhoe, pharmacy director for the 50 pharmacies of Kash N' Karry Food Stores, Tampa, Fla., said he visited his stores the day after the program aired. "One of my main concerns that day was to hear the feedback, but there wasn't a lot of response," he agreed. "The ones that took it the hardest were the pharmacists. They're sensitive to Moravec of Abco said the show did provide a "wake up call. The goal of zero dispensing errors may never be truly met, but the idea is, 'Let's keep the push on.' " Polli of Hannaford said he thought the show's approach was sensationalist, "but it raised the public's awareness." He said errors probably occur "less than 1% of the time," and most are noticed before patients take the medication.