Decision gives closure after pharmacy blunder

Alexandra woman Mikayla Wilson, 27, says a Health and Disability Commission decision into a...
Alexandra woman Mikayla Wilson, 27, says a Health and Disability Commission decision into a pharmacy blunder which caused her to delay having children is closure. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
An Alexandra woman who had to delay having children due to a prescription blunder finally has some closure — but it is not the end of her ordeal.

In a report released yesterday, the Health and Disability Commission criticised a Cromwell pharmacist for failing in their obligation to check the correct medication was dispensed to a consumer.

As a result, deputy health and disability commissioner Rose Wall found the pharmacist, operating at Lake Dunstan Pharmacy (which has since been sold), had breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.

The error in April 2021 resulted in Mikayla Wilson and her fiance, Ben Jonutz, having to delay having children for three years due to the significant risk of birth deformities.

The stress and trauma left the couple feeling their choices had been taken away.

Miss Wilson was prescribed isotretinoin as a treatment for acne, however was incorrectly issued acitretin, a psoriasis drug not meant for women of child-bearing age due to the complications it could pose.

The mistake was not discovered until three weeks later when she returned for a script repeat. It was a further two months later when Miss Wilson was informed what the incorrect medication was, and the adverse side effects.

Ms Wall was critical the pharmacist did not provide Miss Wilson with a clear explanation about the adverse side effects of taking the incorrect medication after the error was discovered.

"In my view, a reasonable pharmacist should conduct a thorough and comprehensive review about an incorrectly dispensed medication and inform the affected patient immediately about potential adverse side effects", Ms Wall said.

The pharmacy’s dispensing and checking standard operating procedures also came under fire for not being in accordance with the Pharmacy Council’s standards.

The Pharmacy Council, which undertook a practice visit to the pharmacy, noted the pharmacist had taken full responsibility for the incident and shown "genuine remorse and empathy".

"It is the Council’s preliminary view that this incident is a result of work, personal and systems pressures rather than incompetence", it stated.

Miss Wilson said she was concerned about the pharmacist’s competence after the mix-up, especially given the lack of follow-up about the error and the adverse side effects.

It was "baffling" the Pharmacy Council had not wanted to review the pharmacist’s competency, she said.

The deputy commissioner’s recommendation for the pharmacist to apologise also brought up a lot of emotion.

"[The pharmacist] said they didn’t know I wanted an apology", Miss Wilson said.

"Why should you need to have a request for an apology? That’s not a sincere apology — yes, you tick the box — but that [mistake] that had caused so much stress and trauma and anxiety, [an apology] shouldn’t need to be requested."

Miss Wilson said while the report’s release brought some closure it was not the end for the couple as they were terrified for when they did start a family.

She was awaiting the decision of a rehearing for an ACC treatment injury claim wanting assurance that if there were issues with a pregnancy or the baby, medical support would be available.

There were no tests available to ensure there were no traces of acitretin in her body after the three years passed, and she said she was exhausted fighting to find a safety net for her family.

"I just want to minimise the risks", Miss Wilson said.

"I know every mother obviously will worry whether there’s something wrong or not [when pregnant], whether they’re healthy or not, but I have an inevitable worry that there’s a chance that something might be wrong.

"I don’t know what my first pregnancy’s going to be like, but I can’t imagine that it’s going to be full of rainbows and sunshine — not that many are, but you know, I’m scared."