PHARMACY AND THE LAW
A Pharmacist's Duty Is More Than Just Filling Prescriptions as Written: Page 2 of 2
The Court’s Decision
The Florida Court of Appeals held that the trial court had erred in dismissing the case against the pharmacy.
“The issue presented is whether Pharmacy [Daytona Discount Pharmacy] owed a legal duty to Mr. Porter which would support a negligence claim,” wrote the court. In making its decision, the court looked at another court of appeals case with similar facts. In that case, it was held that “factual circumstances exist under which negligence liability can be imposed on a pharmacy for failing to use due and proper care in filling prescriptions, even if the prescription is filled in accordance with the physician’s instructions.”
In Mr. Porter’s case, the Florida Court of Appeals agreed that “a pharmacist’s duty to use due and proper care in filling a prescription extends beyond simply following the prescribing physician’s directions.” The court noted that the pharmacy filled numerous prescriptions that were so close together that the pharmacy should have been put on notice that Mr. Porter was getting too many pills within too short a period.
“We refuse to interpret a pharmacist’s duty to use ‘due and proper care in filling the prescription’ as being satisfied by ‘robotic compliance’ with the instructions of the prescribing physician,” wrote the court in its decision. The court also noted that the “prescriptions at issue here are alleged to be unreasonable on their face because they were written in a quantity, frequency, dosage, or combination that a reasonable pharmacist would either have checked with the prescribing doctor or warned the patient.”
The Florida Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision dismissing the case and remanded it back to the lower court.
Simply filling a prescription correctly is not enough to always avoid liability. Pharmacists need to use judgment and care in carrying out their duties, and in the case of prescriptions that raise any red flag (too frequent, too high a dose, too duplicative of other meds the patient is on) pharmacists should question the physician or warn the patient of the dangers of overmedication.
Ann W. Latner, JD, is a freelance writer and attorney based in New York. She was formerly Director of Periodicals at the American Pharmacists Association.