Pharmacy Sued Over Fatal Drug Error

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The family of an elderly Kentucky woman has filed suit against Walgreens pharmacy after an alleged mix-up of her prescription medication led to her death. Mary Moore, a Louisville resident, had just left the hospital after receiving treatment for high blood pressure, kidney failure, and congestive heart failure on November 10, 2010. Her doctor had written her a prescription for the high blood pressure medication Hydralazine. The pharmacy allegedly gave her the antihistamine Hydroxyzine by mistake.

Because of the medication error, Moore’s high blood pressure went entirely untreated for about two weeks. The pharmacy reportedly noticed the error and provided Moore with the correct medication, but by then “it was too late,” according to the lawsuit. Moore could not tolerate the dosage of the blood pressure medication. Her blood pressure reportedly continued to increase, putting additional strain on her heart. This caused “decompensation” of both her congestive heart failure and her kidney disease. She was hospitalized again, and died on December 6, 2010.

Hydralazine, according to the National Institutes of Health, is a muscle relaxant used to treat high blood pressure. It allows blood to flow more easily by relaxing the muscles in the blood vessels. Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine used to treat allergic reactions such as itching, and to control symptoms of motion sickness. It can also treat anxiety and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The NIH specifically cautions people over the age of 65 to not use Hydroxyzine, as other medications that treat the same conditions are considered safer for older patients.

Moore’s family filed a lawsuit in Jefferson Circuit Court in Louisville on February 15, 2012 against Walgreens and the pharmacist in charge at that particular location. The lawsuit claims negligence and wrongful death, as well as strict liability, negligent failure to warn, and breach of warranty. The pharmacy’s error in dispensing the wrong medication, according to the lawsuit, was a “substantial factor” in Moore’s injuries, in enhancing her existing injuries, and in causing her death. The suit also alleges that, by not counseling Moore about the drug at the time she filled the prescription, the pharmacy violated state law. Had the pharmacist spoken to Moore at that time, the pharmacist likely would have noticed that the medication was incorrect, the lawsuit says.

A pharmacist owes a duty of diligent care in filling prescription orders and explaining medications to patients. The law imposes a high duty of care on pharmacists because of the high level of responsibility they have over patients’ health. Pharmacists also have certain duties specifically provided by law. This sometimes includes a duty to offer consultation to a patient receiving a prescription medication for the first time, to address any questions the patient may have and to make certain the patient understands the medication. Depending on the type of legal requirement, a failure to perform any of these duties can also lead to civil liability for injuries that results from such an error.

People who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer, contact Doug Horn at Horn Law today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.