Earlier this month, a court found that pharmacists have a duty to retain medication returned to the pharmacy by a patient if the medication was returned as a result of a potential pharmacy error. The court in the case of Burton v. Walgreen Corporation held that the pharmacy should keep the returned medication because it may be relevant to an upcoming civil lawsuit, and a failure to preserve the potential evidence may result in court sanctions for the spoliation of evidence.
The Facts Giving Rise to the Lawsuit
According to a summary of the court’s opinion, Walters was prescribed blood pressure medication by his physician. Upon taking the prescription to a local Walgreen’s pharmacy, he was provided a single vial of medication. He didn’t realize it at the time, but there were two types of pills in the vial, his prescribed blood pressure medication as well as lithium pills.
Walters took the medication as directed when he got home. As it turns out, he took five doses of the lithium pills before his wife noticed that there were two different types of pills in the vial. She took the medication back to the pharmacy to confirm that this was a mistake. The pharmacist on duty told her that the lithium pills were given to her husband in error, and he kept the medication. The pharmacist followed the company’s written protocol, quarantining the medication and then eventually destroying it.