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Walgreens sued for fatal drug mix-up

Walgreens is being sued after the death of an elderly Kentucky woman whose pharmacist allegedly gave her the dangerous antihistamine Hydroxyzine instead of the high blood pressure medication Hydralazine prescribed by her doctor.

The complaint filed in Jefferson Circuit Court alleges that Mary Moore received the Hydroxyzine when she went to fill a prescription for Hydralazine at a Walgreens store in Louisville on Nov. 10, 2010. Moore had just been released from a hospital after being treated for high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and kidney failure. Her doctor had prescribed Hydralazine to treat her high blood pressure.

According to the complaint, Hydroxyzine is classified as a “high risk” medicine for the elderly and is frequently confused with Hydralazine.

Moore’s hypertension went untreated for two weeks before the pharmacy discovered the error and gave her the correct medicine. According to the complaint, by the time Moore was actually placed on Hydralazine, “it was too late” because she could no longer tolerate the prescribed dosage. Moore’s blood pressure allegedly could not be controlled and the consequent stress on her heart resulted in “decompensation of congestive heart failure, which caused decompensation of her chronic kidney disease.”

Moore was hospitalized several days after starting her Hydralazine prescription and died on Dec. 6, 2010.

“The medication error was a substantial factor in causing the injuries to [Moore] … and was a substantial factor in causing or contributing to cause an enhancement of the injuries sustained by [Moore], resulting in her death,” the complaint states.

Apart from alleging that Walgreens negligently dispensed the wrong drug, the complaint filed by the estate of Mary Moore also alleges that a Walgreens pharmacist violated state law by not providing her with counseling at the time she had her prescription filled.

“Had plaintiff’s decedent been given counseling, the pharmacist would have noticed the dosage was inappropriate for an elderly consumer, and that it was contraindicated for person with hepatic, renal and cardiac problems … and that Hydroxyzine is a medication often negligently substituted for Hydralazine,” the complaint states.

Louisville attorney Richard J. Head represents Moore’s estate in its lawsuit against Walgreens. The complaint also names as a defendant the pharmacist who runs the Walgreens pharmacy where Moore attempted to fill her prescription, in addition to an unknown pharmacist who actually filled the prescription.

The complaint was filed on Feb. 15 and includes claims for strict liability, breach of warranty and negligent failure to warn.

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