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Texas court overturns verdict in Rx drug death

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A state court has overturned a $1 million jury verdict against a Wal-Mart pharmacy, saying pharmacists are not obligated to warn patients about potentially dangerous side effects to prescription drugs.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in a case involving a pharmacy sued by a family who said their son died from an allergic reaction to a prescribed drug.

Cameron Pettus was 12 when he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A doctor prescribed desipramine, a drug not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating ADHD. The drug carried a package insert from the manufacturer that it was not recommended for children.

Two years later, in 1993, the boy died from an allergic reaction that destroyed his heart, liver and lungs, according to trial testimony. The doctor who performed the autopsy said the reaction resulted from taking the drug.

The family sued, claiming that under Texas law, pharmacists have a general duty to warn customers of potential adverse side effects.

Jurors divided blame for the death among the boy's doctors, the Wal-Mart pharmacy and another pharmacy that first filled his prescription. Defendants other than Wal-Mart settled the case out of court.

In overturning the verdict, the appeals court said the purpose of the law is to regulate the legal storage and distribution of prescription drugs and to set standards under which pharmacists must operate.

Although pharmacists may warn a patient, they are not required by law or rule to do so, the court said. Creating such a duty would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship if pharmacists questioned every prescription filled, the court said.