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Mike Myers
Mike Myers
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Pharmacist Malpractice on the Rise

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With our aging population more and more people are filling prescriptions. That’s one of the reasons that incidents of pharmacy malpractice are on the rise.

A recent decision in Florida, in a case involving pharmacy malpractice, is notable:

It took just three hours of deliberation for a Florida jury to award $28.5 million to the family of a woman who suffered a suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage after being given the wrong prescription at a Walgreens pharmacy.

In Washington, a pharmacist’s duty with respect to filling prescriptions was set forth in McKee v. American Home Products, 113 Wn.2d 701, 782 P.2d 1045 (1989). In that case, the defendant pharmacists had, over a period of some 10 years, filled the plaintiff’s prescription for an appetite suppressant without warning her of the possible adverse side effects of long-term use of the drug, such as addiction. She sought damages from the pharmacists for injuries resulting from her addiction to the drug.

The Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the pharmacists. Addressing the issue for the first time, the court determined that “[r]equiring the pharmacist to warn of potential risks associated with a drug would interject the pharmacist into the physician-patient relationship and interfere with ongoing treatment. We believe that duty, and any liability arising therefrom, is best left with the physician.” McKee, 113 Wn.2d at 712.

The court noted that the physician is in the best position to determine the proper drug therapy and to decide how and when to inform a patient of its risks and benefits, and held:

The pharmacist still has a duty to accurately fill a prescription, and to be alert for clear errors or mistakes in the prescription. The pharmacist does not, however, have a duty to question a judgment made by the physician as to the propriety of a prescription or to warn customers of the hazardous side effects associated with a drug, either orally or by way of the manufacturer’s package insert. McKee, 113 Wn.2d at 720 (citation omitted).

In light of the law in Washington, a case for malpractice can be maintained against a pharmacy or a pharmacist if (1) the wrong prescription is given/filled or (2) the pharamacist follows the doctors instructions but the doctor’s instructions are clearly wrong.