Can A Pharmacist Be Sued Over A Problem Prescription?

There's a very important safeguard that's standing between you and the medication your doctor prescribes -- that safeguard is your pharmacist. When a pharmacist is negligent, that could result in avoidable deaths. This is what you should know.

Pharmacists play an important role in patient safety in several ways.

A pharmacist, just like a doctor, has patients for which he or she is responsible. While the doctor may prescribe the medication he or she wants to the patient to have, the pharmacist has a fairly intricate job that goes beyond merely counting out the right number of pills and putting a label on the bottle:

  • He or she must check the prescription against your known drug allergies.
  • He or she must make sure that the prescription is legitimate and that it meets all the legal documentation requirements to be filled.
  • He or she must make sure that it isn't contraindicated by any other drugs that you are currently taking.
  • He or she must make sure that you are aware of any significant risks to taking the drug, including "black box" warnings -- which are the most dangerous (even deadly) potential side effects.
  • He or she must check to see that the dosage written by the doctor is reasonable given the patient's age, condition, and prescription history.
  • He or she must make sure that the patient knows how to properly use the medication.

When a pharmacist is negligent, patients can suffer or die.

A pharmacist that's not focused on his or her work for some reason can cause a patient serious injury or death. At the simplest level, the pharmacist might dispense the wrong drug altogether. For example, a case that's currently in the Florida court system surrounds a compounding pharmacist who filled a pain prescription for an Ohio resident who was visiting the state. The pain meds were delivered through a pump directly into the man's spine. The Florida doctor that took over his care for the brief time the Ohio man was in the state wrote a prescription for triple the normal strength of the painkiller. The pharmacist filled it, sent the medication to the local pain center where it was administered, and the Ohio man died.

The Ohio man's estate sued the healthcare providers, the pain center, and the pharmacy. The pharmacist was accused of negligence based on the fact it prepared a dose of the medication that was clearly unreasonable in strength. The pharmacy said that it had no duty of care to the patient -- a necessary component of a negligence case -- in part because it never interacted directly with him. The appeals court disagreed.

In another Florida case, a Walgreens was forced to pay a $33.3 million settlement after a teenage pharmacy technician gave her 10 times the amount of her blood thinner, ultimately causing a stroke and a cerebral hemorrhage. In similar cases, one man died after not being counseled about drug interactions and another died after being given incorrect dosage instructions. 

An attorney can help you assert your rights.

Medical malpractice cases that result in death are often complex and may involve more than one defendant if the failure could have been prevented at several different points. Talk to a wrongful death attorney if a close relative died as a result of a pharmaceutical error that could have -- and should have -- been prevented. To find an attorney, check out a site like