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CVS Pharmacy Gives Kids Cancer Drug by Mistake

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on March 06, 2012 6:03 AM

CVS Caremark is apologizing after a New Jersey pharmacy mistakenly gave children cancer medication instead of fluoride pills, the Associated Press reports.

Children in as many as 50 families may have received the breast-cancer treatment drug Tamoxifen instead of chewable fluoride tablets as prescribed, according to CVS Caremark.

Only a few children ingested the cancer pills mistakenly dispensed by a CVS pharmacy in Chatham, N.J., the company says. New Jersey's attorney general's office is looking into whether any laws were violated, the AP reports.

The CVS children's cancer drug mistake occurred between Dec. 1 and Feb. 20. No injuries have been reported.

Taking the cancer-treatment drug Tamoxifen, which blocks the female hormone estrogen, would probably not cause any serious effects over a short period of time, one pharmacy professor told the AP.

Children can probably tell they're taking the wrong pill, because Tamoxifen has a bad taste when chewed, the professor said. By contrast, children's fluoride pills, used to prevent tooth decay, are usually flavored.

Pharmacy medication errors are common, and affect more than 1 million Americans each year, a South Carolina study found. Nearly 100,000 deaths are linked to pharmacy malpractice each year, the Bay Area News Group reports.

Serious medication errors can lead to personal-injury lawsuits. But if a patient is not injured by a medication error, there may not be much of a case to pursue.

As part of the New Jersey attorney general's investigation, CVS must explain its mistake and disclose all records related to the drug mix-up, according to the AP. State investigators are set to meet with CVS representatives on Friday about the children's cancer drug mistake.

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