A tragic death led to new legislation – Pharmacies in a medical emergency

A recent High Court settlement, made without the admission of liability has brought to light again the events of December 2013 – what started out as a family dinner turned tragic when a young girl consumed an allergen and was subsequently refused an Epi-Pen from a neighbouring pharmacy due to the lack of a prescription.

The pharmaceutical Society of Ireland Fitness to Practice Committee decided that the pharmacist was following the relevant principles of law applicable at the time and there was no case against the professional.

The fallout saw campaigns around the country for the re-evaluation of the laws surrounding emergency supply of prescription only medicines by community pharmacists (or lack thereof) and how this could form an important component of our established healthcare provision.

Following on from the campaigns, changes to the law were made, and since 15th October 2015, legislation came into force which introduced the use of emergency administered adrenaline, along with five other listed medications, without a prescription by ‘suitably trained’ pharmacists and members of the public.  Further guidance was produced by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland in April 2019 to aid pharmacists and pharmacy owners in meeting legal requirements in order to supply prescription-only medicines in certain medical emergencies.

Pharmacists have a legal and professional obligations to ensure medicine is supplied with appropriate information in order to ensure correct use and minimise the risk of using them incorrectly or causing harm.  Pharmacies must adhere to the new legislation and professional guidelines to ensure you are protected against such risk.   

Pharmacists can only administer emergency medications as per their professional guidelines if they have completed an approved training course and obtained certification.

The legislation also allows for the storage of emergency medication in schools, colleges and workplaces; the obligation rests with management to ensure compliance and training on the use of the medications being stocked. Further need of pharmacy care and compliance comes from the arrival of pharmacies now administering the Covid-19 vaccinations.

If you have received emergency medical care without a prescription, and experienced adverse effects, or felt the instructions provided by the pharmacist resulted in ineffective use, it is important to get legal advice from specialist solicitors who understand the unique nature of emergency medical care claims.

We have over 50 years expert legal experience advising such patients.

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