As the US opioid epidemic continues to soar, physicians have been held criminally responsible for patients' overdose deaths. Now, it appears pharmacists may be next to be held legally liable.
That's the opinion of pharmacy law experts who have watched the crisis unfold during the past decade.
Keith Yoshizuka, PharmD, JD, assistant dean for administration at the Touro University College of Pharmacy, Vallejo, California, notes, for example, that in 2015, a California physician, Lisa Tseng, MD, was convicted of second-degree murder for the overdose deaths of three patients. She was later sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.
"I don't think it's too large of a leap to expect a pharmacist to face criminal liability in the event that one or several of the patients overdose on medications that were filled by that pharmacy," Dr Yoshizuka told Medscape Medical News. "I can see the district attorney going after that pharmacy or the pharmacist for second-degree murder for, basically, recklessness — criminal negligence. But demonstrating that liability is still not clear-cut," he added.