The family of a Kentucky woman who died after allegedly receiving the wrong prescription medication has sued the pharmacy that dispensed the medication. The two medications have similar-sounding names but very different purposes. The family’s lawsuit alleges negligence and violations of state law that caused or contributed to the woman’s death.
Mary Moore, an elderly Louisville resident, had just been discharged from the hospital on November 10, 2010, where she had undergone treatment for congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and high blood pressure. She went to a Walgreens pharmacy to fill a prescription from her doctor for Hydralazine, a drug used to treat high blood pressure. The pharmacy instead gave her Hydroxyzine, an antihistamine considered unsafe for people over the age of 65.
Because of the alleged error, Moore’s high blood pressure was completely untreated for two weeks. The pharmacy discovered the error and gave her the correct medication, but by then the damage was done. Moore reportedly could not tolerate the prescribed dose of the blood pressure medication. According to the lawsuit, the medication could not control her blood pressure, and the stress on the heart caused “decompensation” of her congestive heart failure. This was followed by “decompensation of her chronic kidney disease.” Within a few days of starting the Hydralazine, Moore was hospitalized again. She died on December 6, 2010.
The lawsuit names as defendants both Walgreens and the pharmacist in charge at the time the medication was dispensed to Moore. Moore’s family primarily alleges that Walgreens and the pharmacist were negligent in dispensing the wrong medication. They further allege that, by not offering Moore counseling from a pharmacists when she picked up the medication, Walgreens violated state law. The law, according to their complaint, requires a pharmacist to offer a consultation with a patient picking up a medication for the first time. Had the pharmacist offered a consultation with Moore, the plaintiffs argue, one of them would likely have noticed the error with the medication
Hydralazine is a muscle relaxant used to treat high blood pressure and other conditions. It works by relaxing the blood vessels that allow blood free flow through the body. Hydroxyzine, on the other hand, is an antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms of allergies such as itching, and to treat nausea-related symptoms resulting from conditions like motion sickness. The National Institutes of Health specifically recommend against the use of Hydroxyzine by people over the age of 65, noting that other medications offer similar benefits at a lower risk. In this case, though, the issue was not the treatment of allergies at all.