Steven Porter was just 34 years old when he died from an overdose on hydrocodone and Xanax in March 2011. Porter’s mother, Karen Oleckna, blames the Dayton Discount Pharmacy for her son’s death, claiming that their negligence in refilling his prescriptions for painkillers is directly responsible for the fatal overdose. Oleckna has filed a lawsuit against the pharmacy and its owner, Manish Patel.
According to the nine-page court document, Oleckna said the Daytona Discount Pharmacy refilled at least 30 prescriptions for her son within two years. However, the pharmacy should have realized that the earlier prescriptions should not have been used up at the time of refill. When the case was first filed, a circuit court judge immediately dismissed it, claiming the pharmacy had no responsibility for Porter’s overdose or the way he used his prescriptions. The judge said the pharmacy was only responsible for filling prescriptions so long as they were “valid and lawful.
Oleckna took her case to the appellate court in Daytona Beach where the ruling was later overturned. The three-judges in the appeals court wrote that the pharmacist is responsible for using care when filling a prescription and this extends past simply filling a written doctor’s order to disburse medication. The appeals court stated that a prudent pharmacist does require a “degree of care” in filling prescriptions, giving merit to Oleckna’s claims. With the recent court decision, Oleckna’s lawsuit can now go to trial.
In today’s changing healthcare industry, pharmacies face increasing liability for these types of potential drug abuse situations. Laws can vary by state, but the threat of negligence is real to pharmacies across the entire nation. Negligence in a pharmacy is incredibly dangerous, but the growing demand and fast-paced work environment in most modern pharmacies make errors more and more likely. Even small mistakes can be serious and life threatening, especially with numerous drug interactions and allergies that can vary from patient to patient.
Fortunately, most prescription errors are caught in time, but when errors do occur, it can be disastrous for both the patient and the pharmacist. For instance, a Canadian woman actually died after she was prescribed 1 mg tablets of blood thinners and her pharmacist accidentally gave her 4 mg tablets instead.
“Pharmacy negligence cases tend to be complicated and difficult,” said Tampa attorney Christopher Ligori. “We are definitely seeing more and more of these types of lawsuits as prescription errors impact more people, but it poses a whole new range of challenges for attorneys as they learn the best methods to prosecute these types of cases.”
For Karen Oleckna, no lawsuit can ever bring back her son, but she hopes that it can bring awareness to this troubling problem. If the pharmacist had just noticed how often her son was refilling prescriptions for pain killers, he could have perhaps intervened and refused to give the dangerous medications to her son that ultimately cost him his lift in a fatal overdose.