Are Pharmacies Operated By 19 Year-Old Girls Safe?

Posted by – August 10, 2009

Once upon a time, I was sitting in class at Spring Hill College, and overheard some pre-class chatter that included a girl mentioning that she worked as a “pharmacy technician” at the CVS Pharmacy my family and I frequently used.  Given that this particular girl was not a day over 20, and was about as engaged in learning as a tree stump (she would actually do her checkbook during important lectures) this revelation didn’t inspire confidence for me. If she made even a simple mistake, like putting the wrong meds in my bag, it could kill. I’m well aware of the dangerous mistakes that can happen in pharmacies, even when a licensed, experienced pharmacist is handling things.

Back in the early 90s, before 19-year-old girl “pharmacy technicians” were the norm, and most medications were prepared by actual licensed pharmacists, we had a serious mix-up with a medicine involving my younger brother.

He was still a baby then, about six years old, and was taking antibiotics (in liquid form). Just in time, we realized the label was papering over the REAL label, which identified it as a powerful anti-seizure sedative that likely would have killed my brother.

Mislabeling kills people. My mom went down to the pharmacy and hit the roof.

Turns out that pharmacist was crazy overworked for weeks and fatigued to the max. Why? the pharmacist shortage, the shortage that would soon force them to delegate much of the work to 19-year-old girls.

That pharmacist was put on forced leave for several weeks.

Because of this pharmacist shortage, much of the work of handling and passing out medications is now done by 19-year-old girl “pharmacy technicians.” Is this safe? In Cleveland, it wasn’t.

Emily Jerry, the 2-year-old daughter of Christopher and Kelly Jerry, suffered an agonizing death after a pharmacy technician gave her a solution containing 23 percent salt at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital on Feb. 26, 2006.

The solution was supposed to be about 1 percent salt. The child was undergoing her final treatment for cancer.

Ohio governor signs ‘Emily’s Law’ forcing standards for pharmacy technicians

The supervising pharmacist, Eric Cropp, was recently convicted of involuntary manslaughter because he didn’t catch the mixing mistake. The young girl pharmacy technician, Katie Dudash, was not charged with a crime after agreeing to testify against Mr. Cropp, who she said approved the IV bag mixture even after she told him she wasn’t sure it was right.

As a result of this high-profile FAIL, Ohio passed “Emily’s Law,” which requires the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to test and certify pharmacy technicians. Emily’s Act, introduced in the U.S. Congress by Rep. Steve LaTourette (OH – 14th) would also require some sort of college training for pharmacy technicians, and I support that idea even more.

Please comment. Are you comfortable with 19 year-old girls with minimal training mixing and arranging your medications? If not, do you see Emily’s Act as a good solution? What should be done?


(hat tip to Buckeye Surgeon for bringing the Cleveland pharmacy technician fail story to my attention)