Alcoholics consume a lot of gin, but liquor stores rightly aren’t liable for their “overconsumption.” A tiny percentage of legally sold guns are used to commit crimes, and only gunmen are answerable for this misuse. What of pharmaceuticals? When if ever should pharmacies be liable for harm caused by the drugs they sell? In a trial over opioid prescriptions that begins next week, a crusading judge may try to stretch liability beyond the law.
Pharmacies are and should certainly be responsible when they mess up. Say Dr. Jones prescribes rosuvastatin (a cholesterol reducer) to Mary, but the pharmacist reaches for the wrong jar and instead dispenses Valium (a benzodiazepine). Valium and alcohol have synergistic effects, so if Mary goes to a bar, she may forget how many drinks she’s had and how many pills she’s taken. If she overdoses, has respiratory failure and dies, the pharmacy must pay. Or imagine that John, a high-school freshman, impersonates Dr. Jones, calls in a prescription for pain reliever Vicodin (a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone), and gives his own phone number as a callback for confirmation. The staff pharmacist fails to check in the physician directory, and fills the prescription. John’s liver fails. The pharmacy must pay.
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Source:" WSJ "