Community Roundup: Prescription Mix-Ups and the Brown-Bag Lunch Ban

iVillagers talk about getting the wrong meds at the pharmacy and why the ban on brown-bag lunches at a Chicago school is over the line

As prescription use in the U.S. soars, so do pharmacy errors. Just this week, two different Walgreens customers in Colorado were given the wrong drugs, according to the ABC news station in Denver. One of those mistakes almost resulted in a woman giving her toddler an epilepsy medication. The Colorado Springs mother, Kathy DeRosa, was supposed to get a Motrin flu drug. Instead, she received a bottle with her son’s name on it of the anti-seizure medication levetiracetam.

“He has asthma and some of the side effects of this medicine that they did give me are breathing problems. It could have killed him," she told the news station KRDO.

The other woman, in Boulder, received a medication for seizures and bipolar disorder instead of an antibiotic.

According to a 2003 study in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, a pharmacy that fills 250 prescriptions a day can expect to make about four mistakes daily. On a national level, that’s about 51.5 million errors occur during the filling of three billion prescriptions each year.

Reacting to the news of the Walgreens mix-ups, community moderator cmamyd asked women on the iVillage message boards if they check their prescriptions before they leave the drugstore. Amy reports that her pharmacist double-checks the name and address on the medication, and opens the bottle to make sure the correct drug is inside.

Karla1842 had her family’s prescriptions botched more than once. “On one occasion, my daughter, who is allergic to penicillin, was given a bottle of penicillin instead of a drug called Nystatin for a fungal infection she had. Another was when my three-year-old son was given a prescription for antibiotics. When I read the bottle, I took it right back in and questioned it because it looked way too high to me. Sure enough, it was for the wrong dosage.” 

The use of prescription drugs is climbing at an astronomical rate. According to the book Generation Rx, the number of prescribed medications per person in America was 12 in 2004 -- up from seven in 1993. The book also reports that nearly fifty percent of Americans take at least one prescription medicine daily, and one in six take three or more.

Kika.fleur reports the opposite -- her prescriptions are dispensed with color-coded identification strips that help to reduce human error. “I can tell from halfway across the room what the medication is based on its packaging,” she says. In addition, her pharmacist always goes over the prescription with her, including how to take it and whether she has any questions.

At my neighborhood pharmacy, I’m lucky if I get a grunt of acknowledgment from the clerk behind the counter. The pharmacist always seems put-upon if, God forbid, I do have a question. So it’s probably no surprise that in my five years of going to them, I’ve had two improperly filled prescriptions. Luckily, I caught both of the errors, but never thought to report them. Only one state, North Carolina, requires all major drug errors to be reported. But you can still file a complaint with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, who shares their information with the FDA.

Have you or a family member ever been given the wrong prescription drugs? Join the conversation on our message boards.

Other news that has iVillage members up in arms on the message boards this week: A school in Chicago banned its students from bringing in lunch from home. Officials at Chicago's Little Village Academy public school say they are prohibiting brown-bagged lunches in an effort to get kids to eat better. Apparently, they worry that parents are sending kids to school with junkier food than what the school cafeteria provides. Not only are moms and dads at the school fuming over the $2.25 per day price tag (waived for families who qualify for free or reduced-price meals), they say the decision infringes on their rights as parents.

On the Kids Eating Healthy board, iVillage members shared the parents’ frustration. “In my opinion this is taking things too far. If a parent wants to send a kid to school with a soda and spicy chips, so be it!” says karla1842.

On the whole, those who chimed in were overwhelmingly against the brown-bag ban, but some could at least appreciate the sentiment behind it.

According to cookieandcupcake08, her daughter’s school deals with the problem by asking parents not to pack certain foods and drinks in their kids’ lunches. They don’t allow soda, and they encourage parents to limit junk food to one small treat to be eaten after they have finished everything else. “Some teachers take it further then others,” she says. “Kelli's teacher last year had a rule that only fruits, veggies and dairy were allowed for recess, and that bothered me. She went as far as taking snacks away if she didn't approve of them. Is a whole-wheat carrot muffin really so awful?”

Other parents question just how well the school lunches measure up to their own nutritional standards. “As a parent who works hard to provide healthy lunches, I would be offended.  I seriously doubt that most schools can provide the balanced diet that I do,” says lemings. Still, if the meals were truly wholesome, she might be willing to pay the money for her kids. “If the purpose of schools is to teach our kids, then I think that teaching balanced eating and providing good nutrition is a natural part of that.  And I think that teachers would appreciate a classroom full of kids who are not hyped up on sugar and caffeine,” she concludes.

As someone who doesn't have kids, I am often shocked by what passes for a balanced meal in many households -- probably because I've never had to convince a child to eat his kale or summer squash. In my mind, if a plate isn't half-filled with veggies, it's not a healthy meal. And at $2.25 a pop, those school lunches aren't likely to be rife with fresh produce, either. Like leming, I would be outraged by a school's presumption that their mass-produced lunch is more nutritionally sound than the one I would make. Asking me to shell out $11.25 a week is just adding insult to injury. The school should instead direct their efforts at teaching parents how to pack a healthy lunch, and only impose rules if necessary. At least, that's my take. What’s your opinion on the brown-bagged lunch ban -- is it a laudable effort or a misguided one? Share your thoughts on the Kids Eating Healthy message boards.

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