Pharmacy faces negligence lawsuit after painkiller overdose

February 20, 2015

Should a pharmacy or pharmacist be liable for filling valid and legal prescriptions written by a doctor? Pharmacy industry observers are watching closely as that answer is likely to be provided in a Florida court.

Should a pharmacy or pharmacist be liable for filling valid and legal prescriptions written by a doctor? Pharmacy industry observers are watching closely as that answer is likely to be provided in a Florida court.

An appeals court recently ruled that Daytona Discount Pharmacy and its owner, Manish Patel, should stand trial for the overdose death of a patient who filled his anti-anxiety and painkiller prescriptions at that pharmacy.

Doctors writing fewer painkiller Rxs

According to an article in the Daytona Beach News Journal, 34-year-old Steven Porter died in 2011 after taking a combination of Xanax and hydrocodone. His mother filed a negligence lawsuit against her son’s doctor, the pharmacy, and the pharmacy’s owner. The doctor settled.

The pharmacy was accused of filling at least 30 prescriptions in a two-year span, even though it should have known that the previous prescriptions had not been depleted.

Lawyers for the pharmacy argued that it had no duty to Porter other than filling “valid and lawful prescriptions.” Circuit Judge William A Parsons agreed with the pharmacy and dismissed the case.

 

However, a three-judge appellate court in Daytona Beach overturned that ruling. In its opinion, the judges wrote: “A pharmacist’s duty to use due and proper care in filling a prescription extends beyond simply following the prescribing physician’s direction…. Pharmacists are required to exercise that degree of care that an ordinarily prudent pharmacist would under the same or similar circumstances.”

At least one legal analyst called the appellate court decision questionable. “Do not forget that this pharmacy did nothing more than fill valid and lawful prescriptions, which the patient’s doctor kept writing over a period of years,” attorney Steven Boranian wrote on Lexology. “We can see imposing a duty to avoid mistakes in dispensing and compounding products, and one of the cases that the court cited provides a possible example....But the duty imposed in [this case] is considerably broader and somewhat nebulous.”

Boranian added: “Does a pharmacist have a duty to suggest different dosage based on what he or she knows about the patient? Does a pharmacist have a duty to suggest alternate drugs or otherwise second guess physicians? Does a pharmacist have a duty to question a patient about other medications he or she may be getting from other pharmacies, which is common drug-seeking behavior? Does a pharmacist have a duty to warn of a prescription drug’s known and reasonably knowable risks? The answer to all these questions clearly is No.” 

Also see:

Diversion of opioids: Red flags and green flags

When the government calls the shots: Pharmacists and pain management

Get more like this from Drug Topics, click here.