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Lawyers: 9 sue hospital in wake of pain medication thefts

Posted at 8:10 PM, Feb 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-04 20:16:00-05

Attorneys for nine patients have filed a lawsuit against Iowa Methodist Medical Center, blaming the hospital for a pharmacy tech's theft of potent painkillers from hundreds of vials.

The lawsuit accuses the hospital of being negligent in its supervision of the pharmacy tech who stole fentanyl and Dilaudid during a six-week period last year, the Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/2jLfP0q ). The tech used a syringe to remove drugs from the vials and replace it with saline. The tech was fired Oct. 7 and the thefts reported to law enforcement, hospital officials said.

The hospital contacted more than 700 patients last October after learning of the tampering, fearing the patients might not have received full doses of the drugs.

Attorneys for the patients on Friday said there are 185 former patients whose pain medication was diluted who are willing to sue. More are expected to join the lawsuit in the coming weeks, said Courtney Rowley, a lawyer for the patients.

"As each week passes, people have been coming forward, including employees of the hospital, to talk about what they know and the information they have," Rowley said. "This was a systematic failure, an institutional failure, a failure to people who trusted this medical institution."

Hospital spokeswoman Amy Varcoe denied several allegations in the lawsuit on Friday, including the charge that patients suffered extreme pain during the period of the medication thefts. Although pain medicine was diluted, she said, no patients during that period reported suffering from extreme pain.

But one of the suing patients, Des Moines police officer Dusty Chapline, said when she gave birth to her daughter in September at the hospital, she had to receive a second epidural after the first was ineffective, causing some of the "worst pain I've ever felt in my life."

Two other patients believe they contracted hepatitis C at the hospital during the time of the thefts. The liver infection can be spread through use of dirty needles.

The lawsuit also says the hospital has not refunded patients' charges for diluted narcotics, but Varcoe said Friday that they hospital system did reverse those charges for affected patients.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

AP-WF-02-05-17 0057GMT

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