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Error at a Walgreens Pharmacy Leads to Death of Florida Man

December 18th, 2009

A Jacksonville, Florida man who suffered from neuropathy—a condition which caused him constant neck and back pain—died of a prescription error caused by flawed instructions given to him by a pharmacist at his local Walgreens.

Terry Paul Smith, who had been taking OxyContin and Neurontin to ease his chronic pain, asked his doctor to switch prescriptions because he did not like the side-effects of those drugs. In their place, his doctor prescribed Methadone: a powerful narcotic. The doctor’s instructions called for him to take four pills, twice a day. But in filling the prescription, the pharmacist’s instructions read that he was to take four pills, as needed, with no mention of the eight-pill per day maximum. Smith died about thirty-six hours after starting to take the Methadone; an autopsy revealed his death was caused by Methadone toxicity.

This is the fourth major lawsuit resulting to deaths caused by prescription error that Walgreens has faced since 2006. In September, 2006, a man died of kidney failure after he was mistakenly given the wrong medication. In that case, it was revealed the pharmacist had been abusing prescription drugs. This past August, an award was given in the case of a forty-two year old mother who died from a stroke, caused by her prescription being ten times the strength which was prescribed. In October, a plaintiff’s verdict was handed down for a man who was not counseled about drug interactions between prescriptions he was taking. The total amount awarded to victims in these three cases comes to $65.5 million.

Walgreens is not the only pharmacy facing prescription error lawsuits. Although errors occur in a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of prescriptions filled each year in the U.S. this number is starting to grow. Analysts believe the problem can be attributed to the steady increase in the number of prescriptions filled annually, combined with a steady decline in the number of pharmacists. Pharmacies attempt to solve this problem by hiring pharmacy technicians—who are easier to find and who can be paid less—instead of licensed pharmacists. The problem is that these technicians have not received nearly the level of training required to be a licensed pharmacist.

With increased publicity come new safety procedures and technologies to help solve the problem of prescription error. Nevertheless, human error accounts for many of the tragedies around the U.S. Miscommunication between doctors and pharmacists, pharmacists and patients, or even patients and doctors can lead to tragic mistakes. Exhaustion also plays a role as existing pharmacists are forced to work longer hours to make up for the shortage of other in their profession. And sometimes, errors arise as a result of sheer negligence or laziness.

Prescription medication is heavily regulated, and for good reason. Many medications must be administered with the utmost of care. Failure to closely follow the instructions associated with medications can result in tragedy. Even the minor medical or pharmaceutical errors can pose grave consequences to patients and their loved ones.

The attorneys at have a long record of successfully representing victims of medical and pharmaceutical error. If you, or someone you know, have been injured because of being prescribed the wrong medicine, or other medical error, please contact us at for a free consultation. Our attorneys are available to assist in all aspects of your litigation.

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Gavin P. Lentz, Esq.
Bochetto & Lentz

Gavin Lentz (right) was selected as a "Super Lawyer" for 2006-2009 and 2010-2015 in New Jersey by Philadelphia Magazine. He has also been selected as a "Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and the Legal Intelligencer in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 - 2015.

On September 16, 2002 Mr. Lentz was selected as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer.

He has made many television appearances, including on Fox News, The Today Show, Inside Edition, and The Phil Donahue Show.

Mr. Lentz is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

As a former prosecutor, he knows how to aggressively go after large pharmacy chains to prove the facts necessary to protect your loved one's rights.

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