Facts: Jan Tyler was regularly filling his scripts for several controlled substances at a local Walgreens pharmacy. Due to heat exposure at work, Jan succumbed to an increased level of fentanyl. During the proceedings, his estate established that the cause of death was acute Oxycodone, Fentanyl, and Alprazolam intoxication. Therefore, the question became: had Walgreens violated the standard of care to be expected of a reasonably competent pharmacist under the circumstances. Please note, Jan’s estate presented evidence that the pharmacist knew that Jan worked in a high heat environment.
What do you think? Should Walgreens be held accountable for filling legitimate scripts but knowing that the patient may be at risk due to his specific work circumstances?
Holding: If you have decided in favor of the pharmacy, you are not alone. Ohio Court of Appeals held that that there was no evidence tying Jan’s cause of death to any failure by Walgreens. The court held that the pharmacist did not know specific details of Jan’s work, properly and timely filled Jan’s script, and therefore, the pharmacist did not breach his duty of care.
I actually have mixed feelings about this case. On one hand, it is not a duty of the pharmacist to inquire into the nature of patients’ jobs or life circumstances. The pharmacist’s duty is solely limited to review of the fill history and patient’s profile. But on the other hand, if a pharmacist knows of my specific circumstances and that they could interfere with the medication, shouldn’t he warn me or contact my prescriber?