Pharmacist’s Duty of Care in Florida – A Case Involving Drug Intoxication and Death

Pharmacist’s Duty of Care in Florida – A Case Involving Drug Intoxication and Death
When people go to the pharmacy to have a prescription filled, most assume that a collaboration between their doctor, the pharmacist, and the pharmacy’s computerized record system will ensure they stay in line with a plan for their best health. That is often not a realistic expectation.

A case in Florida involved two powerful medications – Alprazolam and Hydrocodone – and a patient (Mr. Steven Porter) who died as a result of combined intoxication from those drugs in March of 2011.

Instead of cooperatively working together, a lawsuit alleged that the physician involved over-prescribed the drugs and the pharmacy filled the prescriptions in a manner that exceeded what would be deemed reasonable and safe levels.

The lawsuit was filed by the estate of Mr. Porter and also stated that the pharmacy did not warm Mr. Porter about the dangers associated with taking large quantities of the drugs. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, however a higher court, the District Court of Appeal 5th District reversed the decision.

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Sharing Prescription Drug Information Among Doctors and Hospitals

Florida Prescription Error Law: The Goal is to Limit Errors – But it’s not a Guarantee
An accountant visits his Internal Medicine physician for a routine check-up. It’s tax-time and the poor fellow is working around-the-clock. The doctor writes a prescription for an acid-blocking medication because the stressed out patient complains of acid-indigestion.

The same patient visits his cardiologist a week later and that doctor recommends medications for blood pressure and cholesterol.

Finally, a week later the high-anxiety CPA wakes up with a throbbing tooth ache, and his dentist gives him a prescription for pain pills.

What will happen if he takes all these medications together? This is where the pharmacist plays a critical role in patient care because he or she is the central point where all these drugs come together, hopefully, and possible interactions are identified.

For Medicare patients, there are now organizations called Accountable Care Organizations.

What is an accountable care organization?

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Pharmacists Duty of Care in Florida

The responsibilities of a pharmacist are being better defined in courts across the country, particularly in Florida. A recent court decision bolstered the fact that a pharmacist is more than an order taker, he or she has a duty to understand the patient and the drugs being prescribed by a physician.

On Feb. 6, the Florida Court of Appeal, 5th District, concluded that the pharmacy could be held liable for failing to inquire into why the patient’s doctor had been repeatedly prescribing drugs before the preceding prescriptions had been depleted.

The ruling stated, in part, “…a pharmacist’s duty to use due and proper care in filling a prescription extends beyond simply following the prescribing physician’s direction.”

Today’s pharmacies are high-volume businesses with pharmacists and pharmacy techs working to fill thousands of medication orders every day, so it’s not surprising to find that mistakes are made. The pharmacy involved in the case pertaining to this ruling happened to be an independent store, so it is possible for errors to occur in dispensaries large and small.

Some of the most common errors include:
• Dispensing the incorrect drug.
• Incorrect dose, dosage form, or quantity.
• Inappropriate, incorrect, or inadequate labeling.
• Confusing or inadequate directions for use.
• Inappropriate preparation, packaging.
• Improper storage of medication prior to dispensing.

Pharmacists are included in Florida Statute 766, which states, in part:
The term “health care providers” means physicians licensed under chapter 458, osteopathic physicians licensed under chapter 459, podiatric physicians licensed under chapter 461, optometrists licensed under chapter 463, dentists licensed under chapter 466, chiropractic physicians licensed under chapter 460, pharmacists licensed under chapter 465, or hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers licensed under chapter 395.

There are provisions for victims of pharmacy mistakes to be compensated, and this particular area of law is quite complex. If you or anyone you know believes they have been the victim of an error by a pharmacist or pharmacy it would be prudent to contact an experienced attorney who can listen to your story and investigate circumstances of your situation.

The Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus has earned an excellent reputation over many years for representing victims of pharmacy errors and obtaining reasonable and proper compensation for their damages, pain, and injuries. A call to their office in Fort Lauderdale at 954-356-0666 will put you in contact with Mr. Gary Lazarus or his law partner Ms. Arleen Lazarus.

Pharmacy Negligence in Florida

Florida Pharmacy Negligence AttorneysWhen it comes to medical malpractice, most people think only of lawsuits against doctors and hospitals accused of failing to provide proper care. A significant, but largely unrecognized, health care provider who plays a big role in ensuring or harming patients’ health is the pharmacist.

Most mistakes made by a pharmacy or by an individual pharmacist may be minor and cause little or no harm. Sometimes they are serious and cause severe, sometimes fatal consequences.

When these errors occur it is very important that the victim understands he or she has rights. Most often, errors that occur with regard to prescription medication are unintentional. Pharmacies are busy places, and the ever-expanding competition and number of drugs only makes errors more likely.

Florida Pharmacy Negligence Attorneys

With all of the possible places that a pharmacist might misstep, it is not surprising that pharmacy errors are a huge contributor to adverse health outcomes. Nearly 1.5 million Americans suffer from pharmacy medication errors each year and as we become more dependent on medications it is reasonable to believe those numbers will increase.

In Florida the number of pharmacies and pharmacists has kept pace with the explosive growth of population. Currently there are 19,324 registered pharmacies and 41,889 registered pharmacists. The population of Florida is currently about 19.5 million, so that is one pharmacist for every 465 people. Pharmacists in Florida are licensed and registered with the State, and you can verify a pharmacy or pharmacist online @

Lawsuits against negligent or irresponsible pharmacists are very specialized legal matters, and there are relatively few attorneys who handle these cases. The Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus has, for many years, successfully represented clients who have suffered prescription drug related damages.

What exactly is pharmacy malpractice, and how prevalent is it?

Pharmacists have a responsibility to make sure every patient receives the correct medications and is informed how to properly use the drugs. In many instances the pharmacist dispensing the medication is the only health care provider who has access to the patient’s complete treatment history, all the information on a drug’s potential side effects and interactions and access to the patient immediately before he or she takes the medication. That “last line of defense” role is especially important because pharmacists should be able to counsel and, when necessary, train patients on how to properly take the medication.

Negligence in Compounding Medications
While the days of pharmacists actually producing most of the medications you need are gone, some dosage forms can only be made in pharmacies. This is especially true for liquid medications, when pharmacists have to prepare I.V. bags or make an elixir out of drug that usually comes in pill or capsule form. Such reconstituting can be error-prone, and pharmacists who mix or compound medication incorrectly can be liable for negligence.

Negligence in Dispensing Medications
This is the case of the pharmacist simply handing you the wrong medication, the wrong dosage of the correct medication or the right drug with the wrong label containing incorrect instruction on when and how to take it.

Negligence in Supervision
Pharmacists in busy practices may rely on pharmacy technicians and assistants to fill prescription orders and hand drugs to patients. While those individuals have training, nothing can replace the knowledge and experience of a pharmacist, and they must be supervised at all times. Failure to provide adequate supervision to pharmacy staff can constitute negligence by a pharmacist.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sickness, injury, or death because of a pharmacy or pharmacist mistake, you should contact the office of Gary and Arleen Lazarus, expert attorneys in this field. They can be reached at 954-356-0006

Pharmacy Errors – There is Help for Victims

Some people may remember the days of the neighborhood, independent pharmacy. The kind of place where “everybody knew your name” and the pharmacist was more familiar with your medical history better than you were.

Most small towns had one or two pharmacies, or as they were called many years ago “chemist shops” or “apothecaries”. In my town, we just called it the drug store.

Today’s pharmacies are national chains and it seems there is one on every corner. These businesses require high-volume sales to stay competitive, and with more volume comes more potential for errors.

Pharmacy errors occur when the pharmacist gives the wrong quantity, dosage or type of drug to a patient. The Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus has extensive experience in the area of pharmacy errors, protecting the rights of victims for over 20 years.

A Lazarus and Lazarus Success Story:

We represented a 73 yr. old woman who went to her local pharmacy, a large national chain with a household name. While at the Pharmacy, our client filled a prescription for 10 mg. of Claritin, a popular allergy medication. Instead of filling her bottle with 10 mg. of Claritin, the Pharmacy mistakenly filled our client’s bottle with 10 mg. of Coumadin. Coumadin is a blood thinner and can cause life threatening problems if taken in large doses. Our client’s problem became compounded by the fact that she was already taking 5 mg. of Coumadin daily as prescribed by her doctor. Now, because of the Pharmacy’s negligence, our client was taking an overdose of Coumadin which caused her to begin bleeding profusely through every orifice of her body. An intern at Shand’s Hospital discovered the error and our client began to recover from this horrifying episode. A confidential settlement in the multiple six figure range was reached with the nationally recognized pharmaceutical chain.

If you feel you have been a victim of pharmacy errors there are several people who can be held accountable for what happened to you depending on the circumstances. Pharmacists, other pharmacy employees, and even the pharmacy company itself can be held liable for pharmacy errors.

Attorneys at Lazarus and Lazarus can advise you of your rights and assist you with recovering any compensation that might be due to you. Call 954-356-0006 to arrange a consultation.

Chronic Pain Malpractice Claims on the Rise

No one likes to live with pain. Short-term pain can usually be alleviated with an over-the-counter analgesic, but long-term chronic pain is another issue. While advances in pharmacology have developed better drugs to ease pain, the side-effects can be harmful, and even fatal.

Attorneys at the Law Offices of Lazarus and Lazarus have been representing victims of medical malpractice and pharmacy errors all over the state of Florida for over 20 years.

It is the responsibility of medical practitioners to properly diagnose the source of chronic pain and also to prescribe the proper course of treatment. When this includes pharmacological remedies, it is the duty of a pharmacist to properly dispense the correct drug at the right dose. Errors in any of these areas can lead to serious issues, and this is why there has been a significant increase of pain-related malpractice cases filed, as reported recently by

By Caroline Helwick – The number of malpractice claims related to chronic pain management is increasing, and many involve permanent disabling injury or death, according to a closed-claims analysis presented here at the American Society of Anesthesiologists 2014 Annual Meeting.

“Malpractice claims associated with chronic pain have increased in number and severity over the past three decades, and they have increased out of proportion to the increase in pain anesthesiologists,” said Kelly Pollak, MD, from the University of Washington and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, who presented the findings.

Anesthesiologists prescribing opioid medications and those performing cervical neuraxial injections need to be particularly aware of the increase in severe adverse outcomes, investigators warn.

Not only have malpractice claims associated with chronic pain management increased, so has the number of pain specialists, who are using more potent analgesics and interventions, said Dr Pollak.

In the past, many claims involved epidural steroid injections, but those injuries tended to be minor and temporary. However, recent closed-claims analyses have identified an increase in major adverse outcomes, including death related to medication overdoses and major neurologic injury associated with pain treatment. Full story @
If you or a loved one has suffered due to improperly prescribed pain pills or you feel that a pharmacy erred in dispensing your medication, you would be wise to seek qualified legal representation. Gary Lazarus and Arleen Lazarus are ready to place their vast experience on your side and see that your legal rights are protected. Contact the Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus at 954-356-0006.

Edited by Dergle Mumpton

Amendment 2 and Medical Marijuana – A Complex Issue

Voters in Florida will decide an amendment to the state constitution next month in a highly controversial election involving medical marijuana. The term “medical marijuana” implies that only persons with a physician’s prescription will be able to obtain a preparation of the cannabis plant intended for use as medicine, and many people believe it would be dispensed from a pharmacy.

But that’s not entirely accurate in this situation.

The law firm of Lazarus and Lazarus deals with injuries resulting from mistakes and errors on the part of pharmacies, but in the case of Amendment 2, the marijuana will be distributed by “marijuana treatment centers” and will not be dispensed with a written prescription, but with a “medical recommendation” for anything from relieving pain and nausea to treating sleep disorders.

The battle between pro and con forces is really heating up, and it seems likely that after the election there will be issues pertaining to future claims of negligence and injuries due to marijuana consumption. The attorneys at Lazarus and Lazarus are experts in the field of personal injuries of all kinds and are following this case closely.

If you feel you have suffered an injury or illness due to the errors of a pharmacy or pharmacist, you may reach Lazarus and Lazarus at 954-356-0006. With offices in Fort Lauderdale, Weston, and Orlando they are ready to meet you and discuss your case.

Elderly Americans Are Often Prescribed Too Many Drugs in Florida, Nationwide

1367222_colorful_pills%20sxchu%20website.jpgNot surprisingly, elderly adults are the largest consumers of prescription medication in the U.S. Many aged Americans are reportedly over-medicated and placed at risk by the possible side effects associated with the drugs they regularly consume. In fact, over 40 percent of citizens over the age of 65 take at least five medications on a daily basis and about one-third of them suffer a dangerous adverse side effect at some point.

Recently, new guidelines that point out the most dangerous drugs for the elderly were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The guidelines, which updated the Beers Criteria, were created by a panel comprised of 11 pharmacology and geriatric care experts. The group reviewed over 2,000 research studies related to drugs often prescribed to the elderly. Based on their review, the panel named 53 drugs or classes of drugs that may be inappropriate for use in people over 65. The 53 drugs were then labeled in one of three ways: to be used with caution if no alternative drug exists, to avoid in individuals with certain conditions, and a drug that should not be prescribed to the elderly.

According to the panel, many antihistamines should not be used in the elderly due to a host of possible side effects. Many common anti-inflammatory medications also place older people at an increased risk of intestinal bleeding, especially when combined with certain other drugs. Sedation hypnotics may cause confusion or severe sedation. Additionally, aspirin may not pose a benefit for individuals over age 80 according to the panel. Although the guidelines are recommended for use by physicians who treat the elderly, the panel stated the guidelines cannot replace a doctor’s judgment and should not be used in malpractice litigation.

The Foundation for Health in Aging has also created a drug and supplement diary for elderly patients to share with their physicians and pharmacists. Too often, elderly patients have multiple doctors who do not communicate regarding the drugs they are taking. Without proper knowledge, health care providers may prescribe additional drugs that can potentially create toxic combinations. Elderly patients should also be vigilant regarding possible drug side effects.

Physicians, nurses, hospitals, dentists, and even pharmacists have a duty to provide all patients with a reasonable standard of care. When an individual is harmed by a medication, they may have a professional malpractice or pharmaceutical negligence claim against their doctor or the pharmacist who dispensed the drug. In Florida, patients who were the victim of any type of medical malpractice have only two years to file an injury claim. Because insurers also have up to two years to evaluate a medical malpractice claim before a lawsuit may be filed, it is vital for you to discuss your Florida pharmaceutical malpractice case with a knowledgeable lawyer as soon as possible.
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Emotional Story of Miami Resident Highlights the Dangers of Pharmaceutical Errors


Pharmaceutical errors can occur at any moment, resulting in life-changing consequences for the victim and their families. Despite the wide selection of excellent hospitals and medical care facilities in South Florida, one minor oversight or mistake can lead to tragedy, as it did for one young graduate of Miami Springs High School.

The Sun Sentinel reported on the story of Raul Otero, a young man who in 2003 survived a motorcycle accident, but was left in far worse condition after treatment at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. Though the actual accident required Otero’s leg to be amputated and spleen to be removed, he was alert and prepping for rehab when he was about to receive an MRI. Due to his agitation during the MRI procedure, a doctor prescribed a drug at a high dosage of medication, which, combined with his other medications, caused his heart to beat abnormally. Otero’s heart stopped, he was revived and he ultimately went into a coma. As a direct result, he was rendered a quadrapalegic and unable to speak except for responding to familiar voices through laughter (Watch video for this story on the Sun Sentinel story link).

As with many other medication errors the resulting trauma didn’t just affect Otero. His mother was forced to gave up her full-time job to be his caretaker and Otero’s tragic ordeal put a toll on his parents’ marriage.

If you or your loved one have been the victim of a pharmaceutical error, contact our offices to speak with a South Florida pharmaceutical error attorney today.

End of Top Medication Patents Could Mean Savings and Potential Accidents


The pharmaceutical industry produces billions in revenue each year. Residents of South Florida spend top dollar on the best-named brands for their ailments. A recent article reported a major development in the next two years that could save you money, but could end up costing you your health.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 6 of the 10 top prescription drugs will be losing their patents. Among those drugs are Lipitor, Plavix and Enbrel. With the end of their patents approaching, drug companies will pounce on the opportunity to make the drugs.

While more generics will mean more savings, it may also mean more risk for injury from a medication accident. This means that along with the dangers of pharmaceutical error and medical negligence, consumers could potentially be injured from a sub-standard, defective product. While the story noted that the FDA maintains that generic drugs have the same quality, it also pointed out that 81 people in the U.S. and Germany died from taking a generic blood thinner made by Baxter Healthcare. Furthermore, a report from John Hopkins University researchers stated that there is a 10% chance that switching to an anti-epilepsy generic drug would change the concentration that the medication reaches once it is in the body.

It is imperative that developments in medicine lead to better medicine at a more affordable price without leading to injury or illness. Drug companies must be held accountable for making quality products which are safe for consumers.