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Pharmacists' Liability For Drug Allergies

It is no secret that most health-care decisions are too complicated for the average person, especially in light of the number of different drugs available to treat any given ailment. Yet as helpful as these drugs can be, the chance of an adverse reaction or a bad combination is always a danger. Thanks to a recent court decision, Illinois residents may have legal recourse if their pharmacist is negligent in filling a prescription.

In this case, a patient who was allergic to aspirin and related drugs visited her doctor complaining of pain. She told her doctor about her allergies and the doctor prescribed a drug to relieve the pain. The problem was that the drug he prescribed was "contraindicated" for people with the patient's drug allergies.

The doctor called in the prescription to the patient's pharmacy, which also maintained records of patients' allergies. Testimony was given that filling a prescription would cause a warning to appear on the computer screen, alerting the pharmacist of a possible problem with the drug being prescribed. The pharmacist would have to override this warning before the prescription could be filled. Despite the computer's warning, the pharmacy filled the prescription.

After taking the drug, the patient had an adverse reaction. She brought a lawsuit against the pharmacy, claiming that it was negligent for failing to warn her that the drug might cause a bad reaction and for failing to double-check with the doctor to insure that the prescription sent to the pharmacy was correct. The Illinois court agreed and ruled that the pharmacy was negligent. Although the court recognized that a health-care decision is a matter for a licensed doctor, it found that the pharmacist's expertise with drugs, combined with the pharmacist's failure to heed the warning of a potential problem, meant the pharmacy was negligent and that this negligence endangered the patient.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently agreed to review this case. This court ultimately will determine if pharmacists in Illinois will be charged with a duty to protect their patients against adverse drug reactions.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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