Tips for Avoiding Wrong Dosage Formulation


by Tiana McGee, CPhT

A pharmacy technician's goal within their scope of practice should be to avoid making medication errors. Who wants to make a mistake that can hurt or harm a patient? No-one! Or at least, not any pharmacy professionals I've ever spoken with. Yet, errors can happen at any point in the prescription process. We recognize that medication errors can start with a prescriber, with a patient, or even with the pharmacy. Alexander Pope was right in saying, "To err is human…," we are human, and we will make mistakes. Yet, the key is to minimize these errors to a bare minimum or none.

One area to focus on is drug formulation. Drug formulation is the arrangement, design, or creation of a pharmaceutical product. A drug manufacturer will combine all the necessary ingredients, both active and inactive, into one form, structure, or style. These formulations can be in every state of matter; liquids, solids, semi-solids, or even gases. We recognize them as tablets, capsules, creams, ointments, syrups, aerosols, and powders. Of course, these forms and others are directly related to how the active ingredient needs to be administered to the body.

The focus of this blog is to give you some tips for avoiding dispensing the wrong dosage formulation. Confirming the correct drug formulation requires a few essential things to look out for in the pharmacy. Please note that the following tips can be broken down further and extended to other areas where prevention is crucial.

  1. Check with the patient and/or their medication profile. When there is a question of what drug form needs to be dispensed, and it's not clear from the prescriber, you can always check with the patient. This may not be a first-time usage of the drug. Usually, this is true concerning maintenance medications. Other times, checking the patient's profile can show what the patient has taken before; if it's not the first usage of that drugs.
  2. Don't guess or assume. Ask and verify with the prescriber or the pharmacist. Of course, this is handing a questionable concern over to the higher professionals. When asking the pharmacist, try not to tell them what you see or are assuming. Doing this can plant incorrect information inside their brain. Because, once again, Alexander told us, "To err is human…". You should simply ask the pharmacist: "What is this drug formulation?" Then, there won't be any misleading thoughts present. The other option would be to reach out to the prescriber. Get it straight from the "horse's mouth," as they say, even though we know they are human too! The prescriber can relay the necessary information, and if necessary, the pharmacist can intervene.
  3. Have someone check behind you before it reaches the verification pharmacist. The filling area would be a station within the pharmacy where many errors occur. An incorrect container of medication that comes in multiple dosage forms requires proper verification from the technician. This means this is a stage where a "triple check" duty is required. Having another technician check behind can spot mistakes and fix them. Trust me, another pair of eyes can truly help.
  4. Slow down. Literally, slow down. Many people believe that since we live in a fast-paced society, medications should also be dispensed with such speed. We all know that performing anything quickly and in a hurry is bound for many mistakes to happen. The same thought applies in the pharmacy. Don't rush while preparing medications. Never think that being a speedy technician will be looked at positively when errors occur. Yes, of course, move with urgency, but it's ok not to be the fastest pharmacy technician. It's not a contest, as there is no prize for the speed.

Recognizing where and why errors occur can help you become a more proficient and, most importantly, an error-free pharmacy technician. Keeping these tips in mind will help you perform your job better and help to make up a reliable and trustworthy health team. So, I'll end with my quote: "Go forth and error no more…or at least try your best not to."