Published March 02, 2012
A CVS store in Chatham, N.J. accidentally mixed up fluoride tablets for children with tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug, My Fox New York reported.
The mistake could affect dozens of families who filled their prescriptions at the Chatham CVS store location between Dec. 20 and Feb. 20, according to the station.
The tamoxifen pills and fluoride tablets look alike – both being round, white, and roughly similar in size.
The Chatham Courier and the Madison Patch reported that parents who are concerned they might have the wrong pills should check the tablets for the letters ‘SCI’ stamped on one side and the numbers ‘1007’ stamped on the other side. The tamoxifen pills have the letter ‘M’ on one side and the numbers ‘274’ on the other, the newspapers reported.
Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing editor of FoxNews.com, said this isn't the first time such a mix-up has occurred, and pharmacies must be increasingly vigilant about filling prescriptions, especially when using aides or dealing with generic drugs.
"Many pharmacies today rely on the use of non-pharmacists to help fill prescriptions," Alvarez said. "Pharmacies that are especially busy need to have a way of controlling quality. They need to have a system of checks and balances put into place to prevent errors."
"There's also a lot of pill confusion nowadays," Alvarez added. "You can rely on some brand name medications to be recognizable due to their unique colors and shapes. But now, with the explosion of generic drugs, a lot of them look very much alike, and you need to pay close attention."
Alvarez recommended that patients also be watchful - if a regular prescription suddenly looks different, ask the pharmacist why. Also, he advised patients to count the number of pills in their prescription. Many times, the prescription is filled according to a doctor's directions, and if there is an error - such as only 14 pills in a bottle meant for 30 - it could be a sign that the pharmacist was working off the wrong set of directions.
Representatives for the national drug chain have issued an apology for the mix-up:
“The health and safety of our customers is our highest priority and we are deeply sorry for the mistake that occurred at our Chatham, N.J. pharmacy. Beginning last week, we have contacted or have left messages for every family whose child was dispensed a 0.5 mg fluoride prescription from our Chatham location within the past 60 days.”
CVS representatives said that most of the families they reached did not indicate their children had taken the incorrect tablets, but they will still continue to follow up with families who may have been affected by the incident.
According to the National Cancer Institute, common side effects for tamoxifen include blood clots, stroke, uterine cancer, and cataracts.