Nevada Case Raises Question Of Pharmacies’ Liability In Drug Abuse Accidents
A Nevada case causes concern for pharmacies about possible liability for actions taken by customers who may abuse drugs. The Wall Street Journal reports on the case of Patricia Copening, who pleaded guilty to reckless driving after her car swerved off a highway and struck and killed a 21-year-old and injured a 33-year-old. "In Ms. Copening's car, police found prescription bottles and loose pills, 167 in total, of hydrocodone, Soma and other drugs," according to the Journal article. Before the incident, the Nevada controlled-substance task force had sent letters to 14 pharmacies in the Las Vegas area warning that Copening could be abusing drugs. The Nevada Supreme Court is now reviewing whether pharmacies that supplied the drugs to her could be held accountable by the injured man and the dead man's family. "The case, Sanchez vs. Wal-Mart Stores et al, asks whether drugstores must use information at their disposal to protect the public from potentially dangerous customers. The Nevada case is part of a broader movement under way to place more responsibility for patients' prescription-drug use on pharmacies."
"Abuse of prescription drugs has risen dramatically over the past two decades, along with a surge in the number of controlled-substance prescriptions being written. ... At the same time, pharmacists have much more patient information at their disposal, thanks to pharmacy computer systems and a proliferation of state online prescription-tracking databases. The availability of patient information is only expected to increase as electronic health records are adopted by more and more doctors. As a result, consumers, government officials and pharmacies themselves are increasingly asking what a pharmacy is legally and ethically obligated to do with this newly available information. This week, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy is convening a task force to discuss pharmacies' roles in prescription-tracking programs" (Merrick, 10/28).