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Medication Errors Happen to Pets, Too

Tri-County Animal Hospital Featured On CBS News

We’re proud to inform you that Tri-County Animal Hospital was featured on the CBS Evening News, highlighting a recent FDA Warning that is of interest to pet owners. A rapid increase in prescription errors involving pets has prompted the FDA to alert the public, and look into ways to prevent this new problem.

Tri-County Animal Hospital was chosen to represent a veterinary practice that has instituted proper protocol, coupled with advanced technology to insure that errors do not occur. Veterinarian, Dr. Silberman explains our unique pharmacy procedures in the news segment below:



We often hear about prescription errors, but they don’t just affect people.

There is growing concern about the number of medication errors involving pets.

Sarah Schuck is still mourning the loss of her Labrador Rafter. “It is really hard.”

What makes the death of her lovable dog even tougher is the way he died. There was an error on a prescription drug. Sarah gave him 2.25 teaspoons of medicine like the label instructed, instead of just 2.25 ccs.

The overdose compounded other health issues and Rafter had to be put to sleep.

Just days after Rafter died, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about some troubling patterns of pet prescription mistakes.

FDA investigators discovered errors stemming from issues like look-a-like packaging, drugs with similar names, and even sloppy penmanship.

Dr. Howard Silberman, a veterinarian, said the consequences of those mistakes can be completely devastating.

Dr. Silberman takes precautions like requiring medications and dosage levels be catalogued in a computer.

Only veterinarians or qualified technicians can fill prescriptions.

His office even puts the pet’s picture on the label to reduce the chance of a mix up.

One problem is pet medicine doesn’t always come from the Vet. For example, Rafter’s prescription was filled at a human pharmacy. They don’t often have the same safeguards, and might use different abbreviations.

Carmen Catizone of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy said, “Currently most of the pharmacy curriculums don’t touch upon vet medicine.”

Catizone added some pet owners are also quick to try low cost alternatives. “Their primary concern should always be whether or not that pharmacist is knowledgeable in the area of veterinary medications. Price should be a secondary consideration.”

Recent FDA Warning Released November 2012:

Read medication errors happen to pets article here

Tri-County Animal Hospital Featured On CBS News Recent FDA Warning Released November 2012

Your dog or cat is sick, and you head to the animal hospital. The veterinarian prescribes medications that you hope will make your friend better.

But with pets, as with people, medication errors can happen. Pet owners may mistakenly be given the wrong medicine for any number of reasons.

Just as it does when medication errors affect people, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looks out for mistakes that may harm animals. In 2008, FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) started to take a closer look at error reports on medications for animals and to focus on ways to increase the safe use of those medications. The CVM formally established its Veterinary Medication Error Program in 2010.

According to Linda Kim-Jung, PharmD, a safety reviewer in CVM's Division of Veterinary Product Safety, "A number of the medication errors that occur in the treatment of people are similar to those we are seeing in the treatment of animals."

Errors Easily Made

Prescriptions for pets are sometimes filled in the same pharmacies that serve human patients. Errors can start with something as simple as abbreviations.

"Unclear medical abbreviations are a common cause of the medication errors we find," Kim-Jung says. She explains that in school, future veterinarians are taught to use abbreviations to save time when writing prescriptions or writing notes in animal patient records.

But there are different systems of abbreviations taught in veterinary and medical schools, and a veterinarian might be more familiar with one than another. Or a pharmacist in a human pharmacy may not be familiar with veterinary abbreviations. "Poor penmanship can add to the problem, too," Kim-Jung notes. Unclear or illegible handwriting on prescriptions can lead to transcription errors in the pharmacy.

For instance, after reviewing reports of medication errors with animal drugs, CVM found that the abbreviation "SID" (once daily) in prescriptions was misinterpreted as "BID" (twice daily) and "QID" (four times daily), resulting in drug overdoses. "If the vet has prescribed a drug where there's a strong correlation between the dose and the severity of side effects, an overdose can have serious consequences," Kim-Jung says.

Kim-Jung says that transcription errors can occur as a result of misinterpreting problematic abbreviations such as "U" (units) for "0," or "mcg" (microgram) for "mg" (milligram), or when prescriptions are written with leading or trailing zeros.

"So, a 5 mg dose written with the trailing zero as 5.0 mg can be misread as 50 mg, or a 0.5 mg dose written without the leading zero as .5mg can easily be mistaken for 5 mg, potentially resulting in a 10 times overdose if the order is not clearly written," Kim-Jung explains.

In addition, product selection errors can occur because of labels or packaging that look alike. Similarly, a wrong drug may be dispensed if the drug names look alike when written on a prescription, or if the drug names sound alike during verbal orders.

Moreover, there are numerous opportunities throughout the treatment process for different people to misinterpret or misread what is written or even typed on the medication's label. "Mistakes can happen at the veterinary clinic, but also in the pharmacy which fills the prescription, and at home, when the pet owner gives the animal the meds," Kim-Jung says.

The good news is, you can play a role in helping to prevent medication errors.

Ask Questions

Kim-Jung suggests a number of things you can do before you leave the veterinarian's office. "Start by asking good questions," she says, such as:

And sharing information is a two-way street, Kim-Jung says, especially if you are getting a new prescription or seeing a new veterinarian. Be sure to:

Finally, there are some simple steps you can take at home to avoid medication errors:

FDA encourages veterinarians, pharmacists, and pet owners to report side effects from medications to the drug manufacturer first, whose contact information can usually be found on the product labeling. Manufacturers are required by law to notify CVM about reports of negative effects.

You can also report medication issues directly to FDA. For a copy of the reporting form and more information on how to report problems, visit fda.gov.

Story Update:

Tri-County Animal Hospital’s story has gained national media attention.

CBS Miami News

CBS Boston News

CBS Palm Springs News

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