A County Cork woman has been given permission by a High Court judge to claim compensation for the failure to identify the side effects of medication prescribed for her seventeen years ago.
Forty-three year old Lorna Savage was given permission to claim compensation for the failure to identify the side effects of medication after an attempt to dismiss her claim by Pfizer was denied by a judge at the High Court.
Lorna had originally been prescribed the steroid Deltacortril when she was twenty-seven years old in 1997, in order to treat the condition vasculitis – a skin disorder in which damaged blood vessels cluster together to form an irritable and unsightly rash on the surface of the skin.
After taking Deltacortril for a prolonged period of time, Lorna developed Avascular Necrosis – a known but uncommon side effect of the steroid – a condition which prevents blood from reaching bones (usually the hip and knee joints) with the resulting effect that the bone tissue dies and the bone eventually collapses.
By the time Lorna was thirty one years old, she had undergone surgery to have and one hip and both knees replaced, and her condition had deteriorated to such an extent that she was confined to a wheelchair and regularly taking morphine to control the pain.
Lorna made a claim for compensation for the failure to identify the side effects of the medication against her GP – Dr. Michael Madigan – and her consultant doctor at Cork University Hospital – Dr. M Molloy.
In her legal action against her GP, Lorna alleged that Dr. Madigan had not investigated her vasculitis condition fully and had negligently prescribed the steroid Deltacortril when he was (or should have been) knowledgeable of the possible side effects.
She also claimed that her consultant – Dr. Molloy – had continued to prescribe Deltacortril after Dr. Madigan´s death (in 1999) and that he had failed to identify the side effects of the medication despite her deteriorating condition.
Lorna also included the pharmaceutical company Pfizer in her claim for compensation for the failure to identify the side effects of medication – alleging that Pfizer had neglected to include a warning on the literature accompanying the Deltacortril tablets that continued use of the steroids could cause Avascular Necrosis. Lorna also claimed that the company was negligent for failing to advise against the risks of drinking alcohol while taking the tablets.
Dr. Madigan´s estate, the HSE (on behalf of the Cork University Hospital and Dr. Molloy) and Pfizer each denied that they had been negligent. Pfizer applied to have Lorna´s claim for compensation for the failure to identify the side effects of medication dismissed on the grounds that there had been an “inexcusable delay” in bringing the case to court.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled that the delay was “excusable” on the grounds that the delay in bringing the case to court had been caused by Lorna having to undergo several more operations recently.
This, the judge said, had prevented Lorna from instructing her solicitors, and was a reasonably valid excuse. The judge denied Pfizer´s application to dismiss the case – stating that Lorna´s claim for compensation for the failure to identify the side effects of medication would be listed for a full court hearing later in the year.