Las Vegas Sun

June 13, 2021

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Court says pharmacists can be held liable for adverse drug reactions in some cases

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that pharmacists have a certain responsibility to warn patients who might face a specific health risk from a drug.

The court, walking a narrow line, said Nevada pharmacists “have no duty to warn their customers of the generalized risk inherent in the prescriptions they fill.”

But it said its ruling “does not foreclose a pharmacist’s potential for liability when the pharmacist has knowledge of a customer-specific risk.”

The unanimous decision, written by Justice Ron Parraguirre, said pharmacists have the duty to exercise reasonable care in warning customers or notifying the prescribing doctor of a specific risk a prescribed drug might carry.

The court overturned the pretrial summary judgment in favor of Walgreen Co., which was sued by the survivors of Helen Klasch, who died in Las Vegas. The case is now returned to the court of District Judge Michelle Leavitt to develop more facts.

Klasch was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and a doctor prescribed Bactrim, a sulfa-based antibiotic. Klasch had indicated she had a sulfa allergy but agreed to take the drug.

When her caretaker arrived at the pharmacy to pick up the Bactrim, he was told that Klasch’s record had been flagged by the computer that she had an allergy to sulfa.

The pharmacist called Klasch and told her about the computer notation, but Klasch said she had taken Bactrim without any allergy problems in the past.

So the pharmacy bypassed the computer notation and sold the drug. Klasch’s condition began to worsen and she died.

Walgreens maintained its only duty was to correctly fill the prescription as written.

The doctor involved and the family of Helen Klasch reached a settlement in a lawsuit.

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