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When a prescription for 30 days of painkillers is refilled by a pharmacy at less than 10 day intervals, what is going on? For one thing, it is likely that the patient is abusing the medication. For another, the pharmacy may become liable for harm caused by the overuse of the drugs. The Miami Herald reports on a decision of the Florida Supreme Court recognizing the legal responsibilities of pharmacies.

Supreme Court allows drugstore lawsuit

The Florida Supreme Court allows two Broward pharmacies to go to trial for filling prescriptions that allegedly caused a waitress to die of a drug overdose in October 2002.

The lawsuit focuses on whether Your Druggist and The Medicine Shoppe should have stopped filling scripts for addictive pain medication for Gail Powers, a waitress who died of a drug overdose at 46 on Oct. 21, 2002.

Michael Jackson, executive vice president of the Florida Pharmacy Association, said, “We’ve been watching this case very closely.”

While some view pharmacists as merely pill counters, Jackson says the profession has standards of conduct and responsibilities to patients that go beyond simply sliding tablets into bottles.

“We’re examining the Supreme Court’s rulings. We’re not so sure that this ruling actually changes anything that pharmacists are supposed to do. The regulations as written for pharmacists show there’s an obligation to fulfill certain responsibilities.”

In one instance, [according to the lawsuit], a pharmacist gave Powers a 30-day refill on an addictive pain medication only four days after she received another 30-day supply.

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