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Widow Renews Claim In OxyContin Death

Names Pharmacy, Doctor And Drug Company In Suit

Jan 2, 2002 | Chillicothe Gazette

A Laurelville woman has re-filed a medical malpractice suit against a Columbus doctor, claiming a lack of information about a prescription painkiller and its interaction possibilities resulted in the death of her husband.

Diana Lester Johnston filed her suit against Dr. W. David Leak and Pain Control Consultants, both of Columbus, in Ross County Common Pleas Court Monday. Two unnamed parties, a pharmacy and a corporation, are also named in the suit.

Johnston first filed the suit in 2000, but withdrew it in December 2001.

The suit centers around the June 14, 1998 death of Harold Lester, of Chillicothe, from an accidental overdose of prescription medicines he was taking.

According to the suit, Lester was seeking treatment of a lower back problem and was placed on OxyContin as part of the pain treatment. On June 10, 1998, Leak reportedly upped the quantity of the drug and, four days later, Lester died.

Johnston's suit claims Leak failed to communicate the proper information about OxyContin and the way it interacts with other drugs to Lester, thereby causing his death.

Leak and Pain Control Consultants have yet to respond to the suit, but in a filing in the 2000 lawsuit, it said that it had followed the accepted standards of care and claimed that Lester did not sustain an injury as the result of their care.

OxyContin is a controlled-release painkiller prescribed to treat pain.

Purdue Pharma, the company which produces OxyContin, could not be reached for comment on the suit, but in a statement about OxyContin deaths on its Web site, said that many of the overdose deaths attributed to OxyContin were "in reality been caused by the abuse of a combination of drugs, often including alcohol."

"In some of these cases, reported as OxyContin deaths, oxycodone was not even present in the blood. While we recognize that the death of any person is a tragedy, we should not lose sight of the fact that drug abuse especially multi-drug abuse is high-risk behavior that unfortunately can result in death," the statement reads.

The suit asks for damages in excess of $25,000, but a jury would determine what if any damages would be paid. Johnston's suit is the first local OxyContin-related lawsuit in Ross County.

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