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Woman Sues Rite Aid, Pharmacist Over Prescription Mix-Up

Oct 29, 2005 | AP
Medicine

Her Prescription For Bladder Medication Was Accidentally Filled With A Narcotic Painkiller.

A 51-year-old woman has sued Rite Aid Corp. and one of its pharmacists, saying she got sick and addicted when her prescription for bladder medication was accidentally filled with a narcotic painkiller.

Gwen Taylor, a Kirkland real estate agent, said she missed about six weeks of work because she was nauseous, sweating, shaking, overtired and some days lacking the motivation to get dressed.

The single mom said she never thought it was the medicine making her ill; she thought it resulted from being depressed and overwhelmed. She had recently moved, one of her three teenagers had just gone to the emergency room with a bad case of bronchitis and there was just a lot going on, she said.

"I just thought I was sick," she said Friday. "I was under a lot of stress. I never imagined anything like that was possible, so it never crossed my mind."

Taylor went to a Rite Aid pharmacy in Kirkland on May 17 to fill a prescription for oxybutynin to treat an overactive bladder. The pharmacist, identified in a King County Superior Court complaint filed Thursday as Amy Tong, gave her a bottle labeled "oxycodone 5 mg," with instructions to take one pill three to four times daily, Taylor said.

The oxybutynin was supposed to be taken as needed.

Taylor Said She Had Never Heard Of Oxycodone.

Taylor said she had never heard of oxycodone, knew her medication which she had never taken before was called "oxy-something," and assumed it was the correct drug. And actually, since one side effect of the narcotic is reduced urination, it worked, she said.

Taylor said she's extremely sensitive to painkillers, and can only remember taking prescription painkillers twice in her life — once in the early '90s, and once in February 2004.

Taylor said she didn't always take the oxycodone as directed because of her sickness. Sometimes, she said, she wound up driving her children and their friends around while high: though the bottle correctly identified the contents as oxycodone, it carried no warnings about driving or operating machinery.

Taylor said she realized it was the medicine making her sick only when she went into a different Rite Aid for a refill on June 14. A pharmacist there noticed she had been taking the wrong medicine. Taylor's nurse practitioner prescribed her a weaning course of oxycodone for the next few weeks to help with withdrawal; even the lesser dosage made her too sick to work.

A pharmacist who answered the phone at the Kirkland Rite Aid directed calls to a corporate spokeswoman for Harrisburg, Pa.-based Rite Aid, who said only: "We have not yet seen the lawsuit. However, the press release is inaccurate and a misrepresentation of the facts."

Tong, the pharmacist named in the complaint, did not have a published telephone number and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Steven Saxe, executive director of the state Board of Pharmacy, said no one has ever lodged a complaint against Tong, who is about 30 years old and has been licensed as a pharmacist in Washington since June 2000.

In the past year, the state has received 135 complaints related to improper dispensing of medicine, Saxe said. That includes mislabeling, dispensing without a prescription, dispensing the wrong drug and similar allegations.

The Taylor complaint, which alleged that Rite Aid was negligent in failing to supervise Tong, seeks unspecified damages.

Taylor's lawyer, noted that a shareholder lawsuit filed against Rite Aid in recent years accused the company of understaffing its pharmacies, raising the risk of mistakes.

The Board of Pharmacy does not track complaints by pharmacy, but a computer system upgrade is in the works that would allow it to do so, Saxe said.

Prescription errors "can range from things as simple as legibility of the prescription to simple human error," Saxe said. "There are so many drugs that sound alike and look alike. We try to encourage people to quit using abbreviations, to not use trailing zeros so a 1.0 is not mistaken for a 10, and we tell them to write the purpose of the medication down on the prescription."

Need Legal Help Regarding Prescription Errors

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