A federal district court in Utah held that pharmacists have a duty to counsel patients when they offer advice or recommendations about non-prescription drugs – OTCs. The duty owed by pharmacists is to offer advice in conformance with what a reasonable, prudent pharmacist would do in the same circumstances. If you are interested in reading the case – Whiting ex rel. Estate of Theron Daniel Whiting, No. 2:12-CV-288 DN (D. Utah June 24, 2014). This case is not binding precedent yet.
The gist of the case is that a wife called a pharmacist and asked whether her husband could take Sudafed. The wife didn’t explain the husband’s complete medical history; specifically that he suffered from “prostate trouble”. The Sudafed allegedly exacerbated the husband’s prostate trouble causing difficulty urinating, bladder distension, and burst blood vessels in the bladder.
While the court’s ruling is not binding precedent yet, it is certainly well reasoned. Contrary to what businesses pound into the public’s head, it is exceptionally difficult to win a professional malpractice case and the damages are generally much less than they ought to be. In most states there are caps on professional malpractice damages and even if a jury awards 42 million dollars, the judge quietly reduces the actual judgment to a fraction of that with a stroke of his pend.
If you want to avoid this kind of lawsuit, don’t make any recommendations. If you want to advise patients about OTCs then use the same care that a reasonably competent pharmacist would use.