Prescription Overdose Results in Wrongful Death Lawsuit


When people who abuse prescription drugs are harmed by that abuse, the historical belief has been that they “did it to themselves.”

However, attitudes about addiction and its consequences have been evolving as the medical community has come to accept it more as a medical illness, rather than a moral shortfall. What’s more, we are beginning to look more critically at who is responsible for the harm caused to addicts, particularly when substances are strictly controlled and there is a known danger of providing them.

West Palm Beach wrongful death attorneys see these factors as the basis for a potential lawsuit. Doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers have a duty of care to their patients. Supplying mass quantities of powerful painkillers to known addicts is a clear breach of that duty.

This is why there have been a number of wrongful death lawsuits filed against operators and doctors overseeing pain clinics (also known as”pill mills”) that frequently supply the drug without adequate verification of need.

In a more recent example, the mother of a Florida man who died in 2012 of a drug overdose is suing Walgreens pharmacy for negligence in failing to properly control its distribution of an opioid pain reliever.

According to news reports, the man’s doctor contacted the pharmacy in April 2010, informing the staff there that this particular patient was abusing Vicodin and it should not fill any more prescriptions for him. Despite this warning, the pharmacy continued to fill Vicodin prescriptions for the man through the end of July 2012 – shortly before his death due to an overdose of Vicodin.

The mother’s lawsuit alleges that although the doctor had called the pharmacy and was no longer prescribing the drug, the pharmacy kept refilling prescription. There was even a note in the pharmacy’s computer of the patient’s abuse of the drug.

While this could well have been any pharmacy without adequate controls, Walgreens has a particularly troubling history. In June 2013, the company reached an $80 million settlement with the Drug Enforcement Administration for failing to control opiod pain reliever sales in certain stores.

It’s especially been a problem for branches in Florida. According to the federal drug enforcement officials, corporate leaders set up programs that encouraged pharmacists to hawk drugs like Oxycodone, Vicodin and OxyContin, while ignoring signs of patient abuse of those substances. When one manager expressed concern to corporate executives about the excess of painkillers being sold at certain Florida pharmacies, the executives reportedly failed to follow up or take any meaningful action.

Meanwhile, people were dying by the dozens every month of prescription drug overdoses.

As part of the pharmacy’s settlement agreement with the federal government, Walgreens has agreed to refrain from sales of certain pain relievers until this fall.

There are a number of ways that pharmacists can help curb prescription drug abuse and limit the quantity of potentially lethal drugs falling into the hands of addicts. Those include checking the state’s prescription drug monitoring database before doling out any painkillers. It also includes checking to see whether pain medications are being filled for the same patient at different pharmacies or whether a different physicians is writing prescription for the same medications. Pharmacists should also see a red flag if patients are attempting to get an early refill, paying cash or taking the same kind of pain medication for six months or more. When there is a doubt or question, pharmacists should contact the physician to verify the last office visit, the diagnosis, the prescription and expected length of treatment.

Pharmacists or doctors who fail in their obligation to protect patients suffering from addiction need to be held accountable.

If you have been injured, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.