A Florida appeals court has upheld a $25.8 million judgment in a lawsuit against Walgreens over an error by a teenage pharmacy technician that resulted in a mother of three receiving blood thinner pills with a dosage ten times greater than prescribed. Beth Hippely of Lakeland, Florida, suffered a massive, crippling stroke after taking the pills and was forced to stop treatment for early stage breast cancer. Ms. Hippely died in 2007, before her case went to trial. The judgment against Walgreens was one of the largest ever because of a prescription error, and the appeals court upheld it without comment.
Walgreen was able to drag this litigation out for eight years. The case highlighted the use by major drug store chains of pharmacy technicians who in many states are not even required to have a high school diploma. During the trial, the technician testified that she had typed in “ten milligrams” on Ms. Hippely’s prescription when it should have been one milligram. Prior to working at Walgreens, the young girl had no experience that would even remotely qualify her to fill prescriptions. There is no minimum national standard for the training of pharmacy technicians who are supposed to work under the close supervision of licensed pharmacists.
Critics say the major drug store chains have adopted a “fast food” culture to enhance profits, pushing pharmacists to oversee the prescriptions filled by as many as four or five technicians at a time. There are no publicly available figures on the number of prescription errors in the United States because pharmacies are not required under federal law to report prescription errors, even those resulting in serious injury or death. The actual error rates are treated by the big drug chains as closely-held secrets, and they will not disclose even whether the number of errors has gone up or down over the years. Karen E. Terry, a lawyer from West Palm Beach, Florida, represented the woman’s family, and she did a very good job.
Source: ABC News
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