Patients battling cancer and other serious conditions at a local hospital were suffering in pain because they never got their prescribed painkillers, according to a lawsuit.
A pharmacy tech at Jefferson Regional Medical Center allegedly swapped out pain medication for anti-nausea pills, say attorneys representing 16 patients.
"The hospital really did not have good procedures in place to make sure this didn't happen,” said attorney Alan Perer.
It wasn't until a daughter of one of these patients realized the pill her mother was taking wasn't oxycodone that the thefts were uncovered.
Channel 11 spoke to Alan Perer and Jennifer Webster, who are representing patients or their survivors who say they or their loved ones were denied pain medication they were prescribed.
”One woman had breast cancer that metastasized to her bones and turned into bone cancer, which is known to be the most painful type of cancer,” Webster said.
The attorneys say a pharmacy technician had been switching out the pain pills with thyroid and anti-nausea medication for at least four months, affecting nearly 360 patients.
“On one day, they found 500 substituted pills,” Perer said.
Channel 11 reached out to Jefferson Hospital and received a statement saying, "In 2012, Jefferson Regional Medical Center notified a number of patients that they may not have received their prescribed pain medication... Jefferson responded swiftly and appropriately in alerting authorities, terminating the employee in question and notifying potentially affected patients."
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Allegheny County court is not just seeking monetary compensation, but changes at the hospital to safeguard patients.
"Imagine you're in the hospital with a family member spending their last few days with them and they're complaining of pain and you're thinking, ‘Oh, it's just this horrible condition that they have,’ and then months later you get a letter saying oh maybe they just weren't getting their pain medication," said Webster.
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