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Pharmacist Negligence in Florida, June 2016

The elements of Pharmacists Malpractice were recently discussed in a Florida Court of Appeal decision captioned Sorenson v. Professional Compounding.

In Sorenson v. Professional Compounding the executor of the estate of Darryl Sorenson appealed the trial court’s decision to dismiss a wrongful death case against a pharmacist. The trial court ruled that the pharmacist did owe a duty of care to Mr. Sorenson. The Florida Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the trial court. The decedent was in a car accident and experienced chronic back pain as a result of the accident. The decedent’s doctor treated his pain by prescribing hydromorphone. When Mr. Sorenson was taking a vacation in Florida he was treated by Charlotte Pain Management Center. A doctor at Charlotte Pain issued a prescription for 30 mg/ml of hydromorphone. The prescription was sent to Professional Compounding, Professional Compounding compounded the medicine, and delivered it to Charlotte Pain. Charlotte Pain gave the medicine to Mr. Sorenson. Mr. Sorenson died that day.

Mrs. Sorenson filed a lawsuit against Charlotte Pain and against Professional Compounding. Plaintiff alleged that Charlotte Pain negligently prepared and dispensed a prescription that was unreasonable on its face due to the strength of the dosage. The Florida Court of Appeal stated that a pharmacist has an obligation to properly compound the prescribed medication, use proper care in filling the prescription, and insure that the medicine is not adulterated with a foreign substance. A pharmacist has a duty to use proper care in filling prescriptions. This duty is greater than simply complying with the prescriptions that they receive. A pharmacist breaches the required duty of care even if the pharmacist fills the prescription in accordance with the doctor’s orders if the prescription itself is unreasonable on its face. For example, a prescription may be unreasonable on its face if it is over four

months old, does not contain a time limitation for filling it, and does not contain a time limit for using it.

A pharmacist may breach its duty of care by filling multiple prescriptions in too short of a period of time. A prescription may be unreasonable on its face when a doctor is overprescribing narcotics. A pharmacist has a duty that extends beyond merely following a doctor’s orders. Following a prescribing doctor’s orders won’t protect a pharmacist from civil liability where the prescription that is being followed is unreasonable on its face.

In Sorenson v. Professional Compounding the pharmacist sent Hydromorphone (40 ml) at a concentration of 30 mg/ml to Charlotte Pain without confirming the previous dosage and concentration, without looking at the patient’s history, and by failed to determine the type of pump that was being used to deliver the medicine.

The Court of Appeal held that the Pharmacist knew or should have known that the prescription was potentially fatal, however, they filled the prescription anyway. Where a pharmacist fills a prescription that is facially unreason­able and fails to consult with the prescribing doctor regarding the strength of the dosage, it constitutes negligence.

Professional Compounding is not a retail pharmacy. It is a compounding pharmacy. In this case they dispensed the medicine directly to the prescribing doctor. The appellate court found that the lack of direct patient contact did not protect this compounding pharmacist from its duty to use due care in dispensing medication that is intended to be given to a patient. The duty arises out of the failure to fill a prescription that is facially unreasonable without making an appropriate inquiry.

If you have questions for a Pharmacists Malpractice attorney in Palm Beach County, Florida, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. at (561) 651-7273.