A major retail pharmacy has agreed to pay a $1.35 million settlement in the wrongful death of a 62-year-old Midlands woman who had her prescriptions for a weight loss drug filled at one of its locations, the plaintiff’s attorney reports.

Brink Hinson of the Finkel Law Firm in Columbia reports that his client died of cardiac arrhythmia and cardiomegaly (an irregular heartbeat and an enlarged heart, respectively) due to her frequent use of the weight loss drug phendimetrazine tartrate, which is sold under the brand name Bontril.

Phendimetrazine is an anorectic drug that suppresses the patient’s appetite by impacting the central nervous system in a way that increases their heart rate and blood pressure. Long-term use of the drug is known to cause cardiovascular problems like the ones that the victim suffered.

The estate alleged that pharmacists working for the retailer filled the victim’s prescription more than 75 times over nine years, even though the drug is intended for short-term use only and shouldn’t be prescribed and filled for longer than a few months. It argued that the pharmacists should have recognized that the drug was being overused and the duration of treatment was incorrect and either contacted the prescribing physician or refused to continue filling the prescriptions.

The estate reached a $750,000 settlement with the prescribing physician last year, resulting in a total recovery of $2.1 million for the estate.

Hinson said that pharmacists have a vital role to play in ensuring that medication is being prescribed to patients safely.

“In this case, warnings about inappropriate duration of medication treatment popped up on the pharmacists’ computer screen but were ignored without any consultation with the treating physician or with the patient,” Hinson said. “This tragedy could and should have been prevented by a simple telephone call to the doctor or a consultation with the patient when she went to pick up her medication.”

The identity of the defendant and of its attorneys were withheld due to a confidentiality agreement.

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Amount: $1,350,000

Injuries alleged: Death to an enlarged heart and irregular heartbeat

Case name: Withheld

Court: Withheld

Date of settlement:

Special damages: $633,596 (lost retirement income and loss of household services)

Attorney for plaintiff: Brink Hinson of Finkel Law Firm in Columbia

Attorneys for defendant: Withheld

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