A New Jersey CVS gave kids cancer drugs in place of fluoride pills in shocking a drug mix-up that was repeated dozens of times over several months. The CVS in Chatham, New Jersey has scores of parents outraged that their children were given the powerful breast cancer medication, tamoxifen, instead of the tooth-strengthening—and significantly more benign—medication, fluoride.
The mix-up is believed to be affecting dozens of families who filled prescriptions at the Chatham CVS between December 20 and February 20, said FoxNews. The pills—both round and white—are similar in appearance, but that’s where the similarities end. Fluoride is a prescription often prescribed to improve the health of children’s teeth, while tamoxifen is a very powerful cancer medication. And, as with all cancer drugs, tamoxifen carries some very serious side effects.
Tamoxifen’s side effects, said the National Cancer Institute, include blood clots, stroke, uterine cancer, and cataracts, wrote FoxNews.
The fluoride pills should have the letters “SCI” stamped on one side and the numbers “1007” stamped on the other side, while the tamoxifen tablets will bear the letter “M” on one side and the numbers “274” on the other side, said FoxNews.
According to FoxNews.com’s senior managing editor, Dr. Manny Alvarez, this is not the first time a drug mix-up has taken place and pharmacies must step up care in filling prescriptions, especially when using pharmacy aides or working with generics. “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,” he added.
“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 added.
Alvarez also called on parents to be diligent and aware of when prescriptions look different and to also count pills to be sure the pharmacist is following physician instructions, which may run counter to a pill bottle size and other elements, said FoxNews.
CVS has issued an apology and has said it is working on contacting the families of children prescribed a 0.5 mg fluoride prescription from its Chatham location in the past two months, said FoxNews.
“It’s something that’s very disheartening to see that happen and who knows what else they did wrong,” Davin Clark, a parent impacted by the error, told ABC News.
The cause of the error remains under investigation and, to date, no reports of illness resulting from the mix-up have been made, said ABC News. The error appears to be limited to CVS’ Chatham location.