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Pharmacy Accidentally Gives Pregnant Woman Abortion Pill Instead of Antibiotic

By John Cave Osborne |

A Colorado pharmacy is involved in a very serious mix up.

A Fort Lupton, Colorado Safeway has made a very serious error. Mareena Silva was six weeks pregnant when she thought she was ingesting an antibiotic which her doctor had prescribed for her. She was not. She was accidentally given methotrexate, which is used in combatting cancer or terminating pregnancies.

Silva began to feel nauseous and consulted the bottle only to discover that she had been given another patient’s medicine — one who shared Silva’s last name and had a very similar first name. Silva immediately called her doctor who recognized the severe nature of the drug and encouraged her to throw the drug up. She was then rushed to the hospital.

Danielle first covered the horrible story for Babble over at StrollerDerby.

Luckily, doctors at Platte Valley Medical Center were able to prevent a miscarriage. But Silva and her unborn child are far from out of the woods. Doctors will continue to monitor her closely. Silva could, indeed, still have a perfectly healthy baby. But methotrexate is such a powerful drug that she could also wind up giving birth to a baby with serious abnormalities and birth defects or even suffer a miscarriage.

“This is my first child, so it’s really difficult to deal with,” Silva told ABC News. “For all this to happen now is really overwhelming, to know that I have to come home and wait.”

Safeway has admitted their mistake and released the following statement:

When the pharmacist became aware of what happened, he worked with the patient and with her physicians to minimize any possible health consequences to the patient and her unborn child. We have extended our sincere apologies to the customer, and offered to pay any medical expenses incurred as a result of a prescription error.

Safeway has pharmacy systems and processes in place to prevent this kind of occurrence. We have a well-earned reputation for reliably and safely filling prescriptions, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure our procedures and policies are being followed at each of our pharmacies.

But a gracious statement isn’t going to do Silva much good. Besides, it’s not just the prescription filling process that went awry here. Methotrexate is the type of dangerous drug that should always come with a consultation according to Mike Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medicine Practice. ”Any time it is prescribed, it does warrant the pharmacist talk directly to the patient, even when the patient doesn’t ask to do so,” he said. “That’s very critical.”

Tragically, that didn’t happen this time. Silva’s quick actions may have prevented any adverse effects, but only time will tell.

If you ever feel as if you’ve somehow taken the wrong medicine, do not hesitate to call the poison control center right away at 800-222-1222.

Image: stock.xchng


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About John Cave Osborne


John Cave Osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as Babble, TLC, YahooShine, and the Huffington Post. John went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months after marrying a single mom, then quickly conceived triplets. Since then, they have added one more to the mix, a little boy they named Grand Finale. Read bio and latest posts → Read John's latest posts →

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30 thoughts on “Pharmacy Accidentally Gives Pregnant Woman Abortion Pill Instead of Antibiotic

  1. Common Sense Mom says:

    Now this IS one time when you call a lawyer. SUE. SUE. SUE. It’s the only way to get companies to make changes that protect other people from having the same thing happen to them. SUE the pants off of Safeway.

    1. johncaveosborne says:

      @Common Sense Mom — you’ll get no argument from me, my friend. It’s appalling. Thank you for reading…

  2. Steph says:

    How absolutely, horribly awful. I can’t imagine the anguish this poor pregnant woman must be feeling. I hope it all works out well for the baby and the baby’s family.

    1. johncaveosborne says:

      @Steph — it’s incredibly hard to read realizing how easily that could be one of us during what is supposed to be one of the happiest experiences in our lives. I can’t even imagine the anguish, either. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Jenny says:

    When I was pregant last year, a Walgreen’s pharmacy gave me the wrong perscription for my prenantal vitamin. I was taking prenexa and they gave me ranexa instead. Ranexa is given to angina patients. Taking this while pregnant is very dangerous for both mother and child. Thankfully, I have taken prenexa before and knew what it looked like. The pills are different and I always check the lable on the bottle and the instruction sheet before I leave the pharmacy. I didn’t catch it until I opened the bottle because they stuck another lable on top of the bottle with my information on it. The lable cut off the first part of the name- revealing only nexa. I checked the vitamin’s website to see if they changed their pills and they had not. The pharmacy was very glad I paid attention and appologized over and over again. I do beleive we all have a personal responsibility to be vigilant about what we take. Mistakes happen. They shouldn’t, but they do. We can check their websites and ask our doctors what any new medicine will look like before we take it. I also wish that Dr’s were provided with enough pamplets and samples that the Dr can give you a sample, a picture, or at least show you what the pill is supposed to look like. That way you are not helpless and fully depending on someone else to never fail.

  4. buffamom says:

    This poor mom needs to sue the pants off of safeway. A written apology wil not take care of her beautiful unborn baby or her health. this company needs to know that such a serious serious mistake can not go as just that-a life is nothing to make a serious mistake on. i hope that pharm gets fired. because just because someone has a similar name is a disgusting excuse to mix up LIFE ALTERING MEDICINES. Glad I get my Rx from Target.

  5. Jenny says:

    Will suing the company produce change? Probably not. All pharmacies are going to hand out the wrong thing from time to time. Regardless of where you go. One thing that we must remember is that the pharmacist are human and they are filling prescriptions over and over again all day. Yes, they are aware of how important it is to get it right. However, they are bound to make a mistake at some point. They do have computers and procedures to prevent this. However, this creates an unsafe environment that actually encourages mistakes. If you feel that the computer will catch you when you fall, then you are not as likely to be as vigilant. My Dr. said that they were having meetings discussing this problem and possible solutions. He was studying up on it impart to renew his license. Obviously there needs to be more done. Lobbying, and more information available to the consumer before they even leave the Dr.’s office.

  6. Megan says:

    So, let me get this straight, pharmacists are now denying patients the morning after pill when they don’t want to be pregnant, and accidentally giving them an abortifacient when they do want to be pregnant?

  7. Stephenie Falcone says:

    Your tag line is misleading and suspiciously anti-abortion. It is not THE ABORTION PILL. It is a cancer drug. If it was an abortion pill, they are designed to simply delay ovulation or bring on menstration and would not harm an already concieved fetus. The scare tactic is obvious. It’s bad enough that the pharmacy simply gave the woman someone else’s prescription, you don’t have to label a widely used cancer drug as THE ABORTION PILL.

    1. johncaveosborne says:

      @Stephenie Falcone: it’s a drug that has two primary applications. fighting cancer and terminating pregnancies. which is exactly what i mentioned in the post. since this is a blog about pregnancy, the cancer application isn’t the primary focus. the abortion application is. so i’d argue all day long with you about my “tag line” being anti abortion. still, please lodge the same complaint with ABC. and virtually every other outlet that picked this up. b/c most refer to it as “abortion drug” or “abortion pill.”

      oh, and by the way, i’m pro choice.

      thanks for reading.

  8. Stephenie Falcone says:

    Of course it’s more sensational to choose the more controversial reference to the drug, and of course you are not the first and it is all part of the job. Just felt the need to clarify to readers, some of which, much to your delight I’m sure, are reposting this on facebook with only the tagline visible, could create a sociopolitical platform for anti-abortion activists, in a worst case scenario I grant you. Still I understand that your article was technically factual and applicable to your site. I don’t doubt you’re a good writer, ;-)

  9. Cali says:

    Stephanie this drug IS infact used for Cancer, but is also used for women suffering miscarriage who’s bodies don’t “take care of things” themselves instead of a d&c. It is also used to induce abortion in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. To me it seems that the author is simply pointing out the severity of the pharmacy’s mistake. The pill you are referring to is Plan B or the Morning after pill. ” that is Plan B also known as “the morning after pill”. You wrote out exactly what it does and it’s clearly does not terminate pregnancy. All that pill is, is a concentrated dose of birth control. The “abortion pill” is a real thing (not to be confused with Plan B which is also a real thing), and it exists in more than one form. The drugs she was given were in fact known to terminate pregnancy, that is the point to be made here.

    I feel tremendously for this woman. I am not one to get sue happy, but THIS is surely the best reason I can think of to sue!

  10. Conni says:

    Yes, human error will always exist. However, SHE should have checked as well. ALWAYS always always check the label for correct information(which hers was NOT) and if the pharmacist tells you “this could be bad for your pregnancy”(which, if I recall another article I read previously, he DID) that should raise ANOTHER red flag. “Hm, is this exactly my name? Is this what my doctor told me he was prescribing me?” If yes, then by all mean, go ahead and sue if it was the wrong thing. Yes, they should have checked, but if she said “yup, I’m maria silva, and that’s my prescription” then she is to blame as well.

  11. Kate says:

    this is tragic. the baby could be fine but methotrexate can cause severe birth defects–a higher dose induces abortion, a lower dose can cause horrible cranio and skeletal malformations. It will be a month or longer before anyone can tell if the baby is really ok.

    I agree with the commenters who said the mother should sue–especially if her baby has been permanently hurt. It’s easy to imagine how a regular person might not check her perscription as carefully as she should (she was sick and 6 weeks pregnant, be kind!), but it’s a pharmacy’s JOB to control medications and make sure they are doled out safely. It’s what we all pay for–it’s what they’re licensed for. Safeway should bear the costs when someone is hurt by their mistakes because they’re in the best position to prevent those mistakes.

  12. Megan says:

    I agree that the girl should have checked the label before she took the medication. However, the girl was only 19 years old. I was pretty reckless back then, too, and took whatever the doctor prescribed without really knowing what I was taking. I would read the label, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I understood it. When I was 19 I had a doctor prescribe me a highly addictive benzodiazepine to treat a very mild case of IBS and lactose intolerance. I had no idea what I was taking, even after reading the label. Heck, I only know how dangerous it was now that I worked as a social worker for an addiction treatment agency for 5 years! Anyway, my point is, this could happen to anyone. She probably got directions on how to take it in the doctor’s office and didn’t see a need to read the label. She may be legally considered an adult, but at 19, she is still a naive teenager. From what I read, the pharmacist knew she was pregnant and nobody said anything to her about it. Here is a quote from the ABC news article

    ‘She said the pharmacist knew she was pregnant when he gave her the methotrexate. “He just asked me my name and stuff,” said Silva. “The names were real similar.”

    “He helped my pick out my prenatal vitamins and even told me congratulations,” she said. “I had just barely found out I was pregnant on the second [of February].”‘

  13. Holly says:

    I think it is horrible that the pharmacy made the mistake. But at the same time I ALWAYS read the warning and phamlet that comes with my medication. I really paid attention when I was pregnant. When pregnant/breastfeeding I always talked with pharmacist to find out the risks with the drug. Doctors don’t always fully know the risks of drugs your pharmacist is your best source.

  14. Lyndsay says:

    I am a pharmacy student and work at a community pharmacy. I have looked through all my drug information resources and would like to call ‘bull’ on this article’s claim that Methotrexate is indicated for terminating pregnancies. This is misleading and false information. While it does show a Black Box Warning for POSSIBLE contraindications in pregnancies, it does not induce abortion. That being said, it does not excuse the pharmacy in question for the mistake that was made. What everyone may not be aware of, is that working in a pharmacy is one of the most hectic and multitasking careers out there. If the pharmacist is required to handle communicating with doctors, insurances, and patients, while also answering the phone, inputting prescriptions, filling them, verifying them, releasing them to the patient, counseling the patient, following up with the patient, etc., then we are prone for slip-ups or mistakes like this.

  15. Kristin Carden says:

    I just wanted to say that you have a real good chance with your baby. I was actually on methotrexate for psorriasis, and I did not know that I was pregnant untill I was almost two months along. I was actually on the depo shot to keep from getting pregnant because of the medications risks. Once I found out that I was pregnant I stopped taking the medication and had to see a doctor often. But I am now the proud mother of my only child, he is 3 1/2 years old and other than asthma he is other wise a very hyper and healthy toddler. GOODLUCK!!!

  16. Sandra says:

    The article plainly states she was given another person’s prescription and she knew that by reading the name on the label AFTER she became nauseated. It doesn’t say they put the wrong pills in her bottle. Why didn’t she check the label BEFORE she took the medicine. Pharmacists, pharmacy clerks, etc. are human and make mistakes. You should always doublecheck to make sure you’ve got the right bottle of pills.

  17. bobbintb says:

    thats horrible, but why the hell didnt she check the bottle? i know the mistake was the pharmacy’s fault, not hers, but seriously.

  18. Beth says:

    Everyone is so quick to blame the pharmacy. Why? Do people not take responsibility for themselves any more. Yes this is terrible and I hope mother and baby will be ok. But come on do you really go pick up your prescription from the pharmacy and not read the label, especially if it is not a medicine you take all the time? Do you not look at all the labels and read the medicine insert they put in with the prescriptions? I have medicine I take every month and have been on them for years, but I still look at the labels.

  19. Rxtech says:

    I feel sorry for the family having to go through this . There are the checks that should be completed by both pharmacists techs and patients. Like someone above mentioned check before you take your medicne because mistakes unfortunately do happen. Not in this case but often when you are rushed because everyone wants their rx in under 5 min.

  20. Jessica says:

    I work for a pharmacy in Cincinnati,OH. the major error i see was that she was given someone else’s medication. the drug, directions, & patient was correct. My company makes us verify a patients address, so we know we have the right person. the part that frustrate me is how corporate expects tech’s & pharmacist to do so much with very little help/hours & DR hand writing. so many drugs look similar in spelling. i wish we could go to preprinted or electronic. less risk of mistakes with trying to read hand writing. i feel bad for the patient who got the wrong persons prescription & the tech who knows she sold it.

  21. James says:

    I feel bad for her, but she is just as much at fault. She should have looked at the label on the bottle BEFORE she took the medication. She also should had read the drug information insert that comes with all medications. Had she done these things she would never have taken the wrong medicine. I always check my prescriptions before I ever leave the pharmacy.

  22. Vanessa says:

    It’s terrible that this happened but seriously… who just takes pills given to you by the pharmacy w/o reading the bottle first?

  23. ohwow says:

    It is certainly an abortion pill. They give it to miscarrying mothers to stop fetal growth. I miscarried and they gave it to me. There is zero room for error with medication dispensing.

  24. ashley says:

    I think they should sue safeway…thats terrible i couldnt even imagine if that happened to me.

  25. Sam says:

    That is just terrible that she was given the wrong prescription & I pray that her will be healthy. I also feel that as tragic as this was she should hold herself partially responsible for ingesting the wrong pill. I believe everyone needs to be responsible to read LABELS!! like other commenters I make sure to read the label of every prescription prescribed to me, and if I have a question about anything I call the pharmacist, dr, or google it. People seriously need start being responsible for themselves and quit relying just on others.

  26. SEpharm says:

    Methotrexate is NOT AN ABORTION PILL. It is used in cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. It just HAPPENS to be teratogenic, as are MANY drugs, including those that lower your cholesterol and thin your blood. Tired of these stories blaming the PharmD (yes, we often go to school for as long as they do) for the MD’s careless and crappy handwriting (if they do not care to differentiate on the script between an angina drug and a prenatal vitamin through their handwriting, they are not doing you any favors). Your pharmacist knows a lot more about your drugs than your general physician does (again, why we invested 6-8 years going to school), if you’d only ask instead of screaming that all we do is put a label on a bottle and that it’s not ready RIGHT NOW. This is your health we are dealing with, not a sandwich from McD’s

  27. rarg says:

    She should’ve read the label before taking it. When looking at the instructions and side effects she would’ve realized it was the wrong bottle. I don’t think all of you should get so upset about such a small mistake on the company’s part. She’s the one who took a medication while pregnant without even looking at the label.

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