The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

California Pharmacies Are Harming Our Health

Sep 18, 2023

California pharmacies make an “estimated” five million errors every year, according to the Board of Pharmacy, a department of the State of California responsible for regulating pharmacies.

Such medication errors include prescribing the wrong medicine, wrongly providing another patient’s medicine, and typing the wrong instructions on how to take a medicine. Because such grave errors are not immediately corrected, some patients take the wrong medication for months.

Such errors can have deadly consequences. Two major U.S. pharmacy organizations, the American Pharmacist Association, and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, reported in 2019 that more than 10% of malpractice claims against pharmacists were for injuries that resulted in death. The leading cause of death was the pharmacies making a mistake in the dosage of the medication.

The State officials say that this horrendous number of errors is only an estimate because the State does not oblige pharmacies to report their errors in providing medicine to patients—because that would force the State to penalize and shut down many California pharmacies. In other words, the State is complicit in allowing such a very high number of pharmacy errors to happen.

The main reason for such errors is that giant pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens operate their stores understaffed. As the Board of Pharmacy determined, a pharmacist fills hundreds of prescriptions during only one shift while handling many other tasks simultaneously, such as vaccinating people, calling doctors’ offices to confirm prescriptions, and working the drive-through. In some cases, poorly trained minimum wage “technicians” fill the prescription without rigorous inspection by the pharmacist. Sometimes, a pharmacy is run by only one pharmacist.

So, by understaffing their stores and overworking their staff, these giant pharmacies cause horrific medication errors and gravely harm our health. But for these companies, paying the lawsuits that result in deaths and injuries are just a cost of doing business.