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Thursday, March 15, 2007

I couldn’t make it without my friends: A wrong drug error

Sharon’s story (last name withheld by request):

I had been on Effexor for a good five years at different levels; I had been decreasing it for a long period of time, but had also been using free samples the doctor had given me, for years. They come in those packs that you push through, and I collected them from other people, so I was happy to have them for free.

When I ran out and the drug company stopped sending them, I had to get a prescription and go to the drug store for the first time in a lot of years. I took the script to Sam’s; they were great; they handled it. I had it filled and started taking them.

I started not feeling well pretty immediately, but I didn’t realize that. The next two days, I started not feeling well. My symptoms were nausea and dizziness; I was light headed, and extremely tired. I had to come home from work about 3:00 to lie down. A couple of days later, I called my doctor (not the one who’d prescribed the Effexor) and they fit me in and I went in that day, because I’m not usually sick. My friend Joan says I’m always zooming around, but saw that I wasn’t at all. I started having heart palpitations--that scared me.

I went to the doctor’s and first he was convinced I was pregnant! He wanted to do a pregnancy test! But I knew I wasn’t. I had an EKG, and they did a lung X-ray--all these tests! Everything checked out OK, and he basically told me to give it a few more days. It probably was Day 8 now, and I was laying on the couch feeling crappy and Joan came over, and we were talking about all my symptoms, and she asked me all these questions: Have you been eating anything different? Are you taking a new kind of vitamin? Have you changed pharmacies? She said she read an article in Newsweek that the pharmacies made mistakes all the time—she had just read it, and that’s how it started. I told her I didn’t change pharmacies, and she asked if any of my pills looked different, and I realized they did. But because I’d been getting free samples, I didn’t put it together –I was like an idiot--because a lot of times they do.

So the next day, I still took the pill, like an idiot, and I went to the doctor, and I asked him for a copy of the prescription, and I told him what I thought might’ve happened. The doctor pretty much knew when I told him. So I took the scrip and the 9 pills that I’d taken out of the 30-day prescription, and I took it to the pharmacy, and said, Is this what I am supposed to have here? They said they have a hard copy on their computer files—I didn’t know they could do that. And they looked at the script and the bottle, and went, “Woops! This is not what we filled”!

They immediately gave me another bottle of 30 of the right timed release ones. They told me that they were sorry, and they didn’t charge me for the new bottle.

The next day I got a phone call from the pharmacist that prescribed it, apologizing, and wanted to know how I was feeling. The same day, I got a call from an independent insurance agent of some kind, who said that by law they had to report on the error, and she asked me to tell the story of what happened as well.

Three days later, I got a call from the same woman, who said that she was able to make me a one-time settlement if I was prepared to accept it today. I said, “What settlement?!” And all this information came out of the blue for me. I told her I was NOT willing to make any kind of settlement, that I needed a couple of days to think.

She had made me an offer of $1,200.

I called my friend who is an attorney, and we talked strictly as friends—I wasn’t paying him anything. And he explained to me that this could be a huge lawsuit and the company was trying to avoid it, and that I needed to think about how I felt about all of this. I explained to him that I was never thinking about suing, and that I was not comfortable with the idea of getting a lot of money from them. My friend explained to me that I had a legitimate complaint and deserved to be compensated. So we talked about different options as far as my pain and suffering, how much time I missed from work, and all my doctors’ bills—I was concerned about that because I work for a nonprofit, for nothing, practically, and I was concerned about all the medical bills I had just created.

So we came up with a number that covered all my medical expenses and covered me missing a week of work--$2,200.

Now, I still feel that Sam’s has been the best pharmacy for me over the years. They’ve been great, before, and since. Now I always open the bottle of pills when I get there. Mistakes can happen anywhere. It’s a business, but it’s human beings filling the scripts. It’s scary, I tell everybody: Check your meds!

I had two advocate friends. My life is run by my friends. I couldn’t make it without my friends.

Advice: Get a friend like Joan and Sharon’s lawyer friend to advocate with you.

Read a story about another victim who chose not to sue .

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