Tainan Pharmacy Pays Compensation for Selling Expired Drugs

National Health Insurance Administration
Courtesy Taiwan National Health Insurance Administration

A Tainan man was sold expired acid reflux medication, which caused a severe allergic reaction; the pharmacist agreed to pay for the man’s hospital care, but claimed that additional compensation and fines were excessive in the case.

The 34-year-old surnamed Wang asked his wife to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medication for his acid reflux, Apple Daily reported. She went to an independent pharmacy on Minsheng Rd. in West Central District to purchase an OTC medication for about NT$100, but the pharmacist surnamed Chen said that the medication she chose was not effective and instead suggested she purchase Song Yu Taganine Suspension (泰胃寧; also sold as Tagamet, Cimetidine) for NT$200.

Wang didn’t feel well after taking the medication, but his wife reassured him that the pharmacist said it was the best medicine for acid reflux. He later checked the box and found that the medication had expired a year and half earlier.taganine suspension

Wang took the medication back to the pharmacy where the pharmacist said he thought the date said 2019 and agreed to refund the customer’s money.

That evening, however, Wang fell ill. His face became swollen and he had difficulty breathing. His wife took him to the emergency room where doctors diagnosed him with a drug allergy. He was put on oxygen treatment for 24 hours and had to be hospitalized for eight days.

Wang’s wife called the pharmacist to come to the hospital and explain why her husband suffered such a severe allergic reaction to the medication. She had to call the pharmacist three times and claimed that he ignored her questions.

After being discharged, Wang went to the pharmacy to attempt to claim compensation for his lengthy hospital stay. Chen agreed to pay medical expenses related to the incident, which amounted to about NT$19,000.

The Tainan City Health Bureau said that is had inspected the local pharmacy late last year for expired drugs but found nothing. The pharmacy did, however, admit to selling the expired acid reflux drug prior to the inspection. On a subsequent inspection on December 12, the bureau found it in violation for selling drugs without a prescription and fined the pharmacy NT$30,000.

The pharmacy countered that it is allowed to sell those drugs without a prescription and believes the fine to be excessive.

Pharmacies and pharmacists are criminally responsible for selling expired medications, even OTC drugs. According to the law, the pharmacist involved in such cases would be charged with criminal negligence, and can be sentenced to less than one year in prison or a fine of no more than NT$1,000. If a person is seriously injured due to the negligence, the pharmacist may be sentenced to no more than three years in prison or a fine of no more than NT$2,000. The pharmacist could also face civil liability charges.

According to some websites, including WEBMD, less severe cases of persistent acid reflux may be treated with regular consumption of aloe, which can be found as a drink in Taiwan.

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