Allowing Drug Abusers to Sue Pharmacists Could Affect Opioid Dispensing


A West Virginia high court's decision to allow drug abusers to sue pharmacists could have a far-reaching influence on controlled substance dispensing.

A West Virginia high court’s decision to allow drug abusers to sue pharmacists could have a far-reaching influence on controlled substance dispensing, the executive director of the state’s pharmacist association told Pharmacy Times.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently ruled that prescription drug abusers could sue the pharmacists who dispensed the drugs, on the basis that they caused or contributed to their addiction and subsequent criminal activities.

Some fear this court decision will create incentive for drug abusers to pursue damages claims against pharmacists. Even West Virginia Pharmacists Association executive director Richard Stevens told Pharmacy Times the ruling put pharmacists “in harm’s way.”

“Pharmacists can only protect themselves by exercising extreme caution in dispensing controlled substances—especially those products known to be abused—to individuals who are not patrons of their pharmacy” Stevens said.

To do so, pharmacists will need to pay close attention to the West Virginia Controlled Substances Monitoring Program, which contains information on all controlled substances dispensed—including the names of the prescriber and patient, quantities and names of products dispensed, and the names of the pharmacists dispensing them to the patient.

“[Pharmacists] will have to alert prescribing physicians if their patients are obtaining excessive quantities of controlled substances from other prescribers,” Stevens said. “This will certainly increase pharmacists’ workload.”

Pharmacists may also have to be more critical of seemingly legitimate controlled substance prescriptions that could be harmful.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia’s painkiller prescribing rate ranks third in the country, and the state also has one of the highest opioid overdose death rates nationwide.

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