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Pharmacy Mistakes Prompt Rise In Malpractice Lawsuits

Apr 15, 2003 | AP Mistakes by pharmacies have resulted in dangerous and sometimes lethal consequences in Michigan and across the country.

April Ozias of Madison Heights filed a lawsuit against Rite Aid after her son, Corey, was hospitalized after he overdosed on medication in March 2001.

The fourth-grader's prescription was incorrectly filled by a Rite Aid in Warren with twice the needed dose of Tegretol, his panic disorder medication, Ozias, 34, said.

"You put so much trust in your pharmacist," Ozias told The Detroit News yesterday. "You hope that they are paying attention. You hope that they won't make a mistake."

Rite Aid spokeswoman Jody Cook said the drugstore denies wrongdoing in the case. The lawsuit is pending.

At least seven other Detroit area families also have filed pharmaceutical malpractice lawsuits since 1999, some of which allege the mistakes have left victims severely incapacitated and others dead.

As errors mount, lawsuits "increase exponentially," said Jesse Vivian, a pharmacist, attorney and Wayne State University professor.

"Ten years ago, you have about 15 to 20 cases at the appellate level. Today, you see 15 cases a month."

And pressure on pharmacists keeps growing, partly because the number of prescriptions they are filling annually has jumped 50 percent, from 2 billion a decade ago to more than 3 billion now.

As things get more complicated, one truth has emerged: "Ultimately, the burden (to stay safe) is on the patient," said Greg Baran, director of government affairs for the Michigan Pharmacist's Association.

Michigan also doesn't keep a record of pharmaceutical malpractice suits. The only state tracking statistic is the number of complaints consumers file - about 200 per year, said Lori Donlan, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services.

Some of those complaints include prescription mistakes, but state officials said they don't know how many because those complaints are lumped together into a category called "incompetence."

Ninety-nine Michigan pharmacists were disciplined by the state agency in fiscal year Oct. 1, 2000, to Sept. 30, 2001, and most were reprimanded or received probation, records show. Fifteen had their pharmacist license suspended or revoked.

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