Lawsuit: CVS gave wrong kind of drops

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY ó A Salisbury woman claims in a lawsuit that an East Innes Street CVS pharmacist gave her the wrong prescription and caused damage to her eyes.
Greensboro attorney Michael Nash filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lori Smith Oct. 11 in Rowan Superior Court.
According to the complaint, Smith suffered burns to her eyes after she used a medicinal ear drops in her eye.
The suit says pharmacy manager Charles Boakye-Agyemang ěacted negligently in mis-filling and/or supervising the mis-fillingî of Smithís prescription eye drops.
In addition to the pharmacy manager, Smith names North Carolina CVS Pharmacy LLC, the company that owns the East Innes Street store, as a defendant in the suit.
The incident happened in February after Smith developed flu-like symptoms, the lawsuit says.
Since she had no primary doctor, Smith went to the Rowan County Health Department for an assessment. She was diagnosed with conjunctivitis, or pink eye, and prescribed a medication called Neomycin-Polymyxin for the eyes.
The same day, Smith went to the CVS Pharmacy at 1702 E. Innes St., Salisbury, where she said Boakye-Agyemang filled the prescription with Neomycin-Polymyxin, but in a form meant for use in the ears.
The label on the box Smith received from the pharmacy said, ěUse two drops every three to four hours for five days to both eyes.î When she used the drops, they ěcaused a burning sensation to Ms. Smithís eyes,î the lawsuit said.
Smith had the prescription filled Feb. 16. The next day, she called CVS and told the pharmacist the drops were causing a burning sensation in her eyes and that the box said, ěUse in ears only.î
She asked the pharmacist if she could safely use the drops in her eyes as the label instructed.
Smith alleges in the suit that Boakye-Agyemang insisted that despite what the box said, the drops were safe to use in her eyes and the two forms of the medication were ěinterchangeable.î He told her to continue using them, the suit says.
He made no effort to research Smithís concerns, the suit says.
ěSuch utter and complete lack of care constitutes gross negligence, gross pharmacy malpractice and reckless misconduct,î the lawsuit alleges.
Certain chemicals contained in the medication for the ears are ětoxic and dangerous for use in the eyes and are capable of burning a patientís eyes and are extremely dangerous for use in the eyes,î the suit says.
Smith ěrelied and trustedî the pharmacy and pharmacist and ěfollowed the CVS directions exactly,î the complaint says.
On Feb. 22, about a week after she began using the drops, Smith was in severe pain and returned to the Rowan County Health Department.
Health Department medical workers confirmed Smith had been given a medication meant to treat ear infections. They noted her eyes were red, swollen and very sensitive to light.
ěCalled to pharmacy and they admitted their mistake,î said a Health Department notation contained in the suit.
Smith was referred to Piedmont Eye Physicians & Surgeons. She was examined there Feb. 23 and told the doctor she had a headache behind the eyes, and that her eyes were itching and raw.
ěPatient was given Neomycin ear drops ó pharmacy did not fill them right,î said the notation from Piedmont Eye Physicians contained in the lawsuit.
The Piedmont Eye Physicians exam revealed Smithís visual acuity, which had always been normal at 20/20, had deteriorated to 20/80 and that the corneas of both eyes had abrasions, the lawsuit says.
The cornea is the clear front covering of the eye that transmits and focuses light into the eye.
Smith must wear sunglasses indoors and outdoors, her attorney said.
ěThe burns required medical treatment and medication including pain medications. Ms. Smith also was instructed to dilate her eyes as part of her treatment,î the lawsuit says.
After her diagnosis at Piedmont Eye Physicians, Smith was seen at Rowan Neurology. She fell twice in March due to impaired vision and had to go to Rowan Regional Medical Centerís emergency room, the suit says.
The complaint accuses the pharmacy and pharmacist of negligence and ěwillful and wanton disregard of the rights and safety of the plaintiff.î
Smith lost her job because of the injuries, the lawsuit says, and hasnít been able to resume training at a local beauty college where she was a student.
CVS has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.
Mike DeAngelis, public relations director for parent company CVS Caremark, said the company doesnít comment on pending litigation. He sent a statement to the Post saying the company is ěcommitted to the safe and accurate filling of prescriptions and we utilize industry leading pharmacy systems and processes designed to enhance the safety of the prescription filling process.
ěErrors are a rare occurrence and we remain committed to continually improving quality measures to help ensure that prescriptions are dispensed safely and accurately,î DeAngelis wrote in the statement.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.