Florida pharmacies have had their potential liability significantly expanded by the Fifth District Court of Appeal. In its recent decision, Oleckna v. Daytona Discount Pharmacy, the appellate court held that a pharmacy owes a duty to its patients that go beyond following the prescribing physician’s directions and properly dispensing the medication.
The court defined the pharmacy’s duty to use due care in filling a prescription to mean more than what it called “robotic compliance” with the instructions of the prescribing physician.
From the court’s decision and some others from around the state it would seem that Florida pharmacists are now under an obligation to question the quantity, frequency, dosage, combination, and possibly even the purpose of a valid prescription. Florida pharmacies are no longer simply a conduit for validly prescribed prescription medications. They are now an integral part of the health care system where trained professionals are expected to act as a check and balance on physicians and other prescribers.
This decision is in keeping with recent Florida Board of Pharmacy cases dealing with narcotic pain medications. The Board has interpreted Section 465.003(6), Florida Statutes, and Rule 64B16-27.820, Florida Administrative Code, to place a duty on a pharmacist to use his or her skill and experience to evaluate the propriety of every prescription presented on a global level.
While courts and the Board are more than willing to expand the scope of a pharmacist’s duty to his or her patients, unfortunately, neither have provided any prospective guidance on how to fulfill the duty.
Suggestions for Compliance.
Below are some suggestions for ensuring your pharmacy is fulfilling its obligation to its patients. This list is by no means exhaustive and is only intended to offer some basic guidance.
1. Know the physician and verify the credentials of an unfamiliar one;
2. Check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP);
3. Do not fill prescriptions that are more than 30 days old without verifying them with the prescribing physician;
4. Question higher than normal dosages and more frequent administration instructions;
5. Do not provide early refills without verifiable documentation and contact the physician when the patient is seeking an early refill on a medication with a high potential for abuse (the physician is usually in the best position to recognize drug seeking behaviors);
6. Flag concerning prescriptions for mandatory counseling prior to dispensing to give you an opportunity to discuss the risks with the patient;
7. Check the patient’s profile for interactions and discuss them with the patient and, if necessary, the prescribing physician;
8. Periodically check with the prescribing physician on long term medications;
9. Document everything done to verify the propriety of a prescription in the patient’s record; and
10. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to refuse a fill.
In addition to these steps, you should also be conducting regular staff meetings and routine reviews of your processes to ensure that they remain functional and able to be followed.
Do you think a pharmacy or pharmacist should be held liable for filling valid prescriptions? How do you verify you or your employees are in compliance? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
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About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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