Pharmacy chains update safety protocols for drug interactions: 4 things to know

Major pharmacy chains have taken steps to prevent harmful drug interactions after a 2016 investigative report found pharmacists often dispensed dangerous drug combinations without warning patients, reports Chicago Tribune.

Here are four things to know.

1. Chicago Tribune published the investigative report in December 2016. Of 255 chain and independent pharmacies assessed in the Chicago area, reporters found 52 percent dispensed risky drug combinations without discussing potential adverse interactions with patients. Among pharmacy chains, CVS dispensed the most drug pairs without warning at 63 percent.

2. Following the report's publication, CVS upgraded its computer alert system at its 9,700 stores nationwide to better prevent drug interactions and conducted additional training for its 30,000 pharmacists and 50,000 technicians. When the computer system flags a serious drug interaction, pharmacists must warn the patient and/or consult with the prescribing physician. The system blocks the sale of these medications until pharmacists take these steps, according to a Chicago Tribune article published Wednesday.

3. Walmart adjusted the alert levels on its computer system for various drug combinations and changed its operating manual to reflect the updates. All 16,700 pharmacists at its 4,700 locations completed additional training following these changes.

"We are confident the measures we've taken have not only helped to improve our pharmacy alert system but also improved overall patient care," Wal-Mart said in a statement to Chicago Tribune.

4. Costco's new computer system alerts cashiers that specific medication combinations should not be sold until a pharmacist speaks to the patient. Walgreens also provided additional training on drug interactions to 27,000 pharmacists at 8,175 stores across the country.

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