A pensioner who believed he was taking paracetamol for a sore foot died after a bungling pharmacist gave him someone else’s PRESCRIPTION, an inquest has heard.
Edlie George Masters, 83, died five days after taking Verapamil, a drug used to treat high pressure, instead of over-the-counter painkillers.
Pharmacist Matthew Hurcomb delivered the drugs to Mr Masters’ home after he placed a telephone order for paracetamol along with his prescription for a pre-existing kidney condition.
The usual delivery driver for Hurcomb Chemists took the prescription to Mr Masters’ home in the afternoon of August 13 but there was no answer so he returned to the pharmacy.
Later that night, Mr Hurcomb took the prescription to the house himself on his way home from work.
But he picked up a prescription for another patient by mistake after he failed to follow the pharmacy’s strict protocol of checking the names of patients against their addresses.
Instead of paracetamol, Mr Masters was delivered Verapamil and took the tablets without looking at the packaging, an inquest heard.
When Mr Hurcomb realised his mistake he drove back to Mr Masters’ home in Winson Green, Birmingham, and reassured him the drug would have no adverse effect.
But hours later Mr Masters woke up complaining of a shortness of breath and was rushed to Birmingham City Hospital the following morning.
Shockingly, when paramedics tried to find out what drugs Mr Masters had taken the pharmacy had no idea because Mr Hurcomb had failed to log the mistake.
Tragically, the grandfather-of-eight died of multiple organ failure five days later on August 18.
Birmingham Coroners Court heard Mr Masters died as a result of the “interaction” between the Verapamil and medication he took for his kidney condition.
Assistant coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Heidi Connor recorded a verdict of accidental death.
She asked Hurcomb Chemists, in Lozells, Birmingham, to “put policies in place to stop it happening again” following the hearing last Friday (21/11).
Yesterday (Thur), Mr Masters’ family said they felt “let down” by the pharmacy.
His son Leon Masters said: “He (Matthew Hurcomb) basically took it upon himself to think ‘well I am a doctor, I will make a decision’ which is where the government are saying pharmacies can make a decision to say what patients can and can’t have.
“We are devastated by the loss of our father and grandfather in such tragic and avoidable circumstances.
“Watching him deteriorate in hospital was horrendous and his death has and continues to have a tremendous impact on us as a family.”
Granddaughter Chantelle Masters added: “It was devastating when we found out what had happened.
“It was just a basic procedure which should have been followed and it wasn’t.”
And his niece Ingrid Masters added: “The ulcer on his foot was the reason why he needed pain killers from the pharmacist on Wednesday August 13.
“He had been a client of the pharmacy for many years and very accustomed to having his medication delivered by the same driver.”
Phil Barnes, a lawyer from Shoosmiths Access Legal who is representing the family, said: “There is no excuse for failing to check that the correct medication is given to the right patient because doing so can result in a tragedy such as this.
“Mr Masters’ death was avoidable and highlights the importance of following basic medical practices and procedures.”
Dr Anthony Cox, a lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Birmingham, said:
“There are procedures within pharmacies when giving out medicines to patients or delivering them to check the name and address is correct and those are really important procedures.
“However obviously occasionally there are errors with medication.
“This particular type of mistake I would hope would not be too common. Pharmacists are taught early about the importance of getting the right drugs to the right patients at the right time.
“It’s a procedure that is in place at all pharmacies. In this case it is extremely damaging to trust.
“All professions are working together to try and reduce the rate of medication errors.
“There are systems where we can try and learn and then feedback to practitioners to make sure that these types of errors never happen again.”
Mr Hurcomb has since referred himself to the General Pharmaceutical Council but refused to comment about the incident yesterday (Thur).