Case for Medication Side Effects Heard at High Court

A woman’s claim for compensation due to severe and life-altering side effects of her medication has been heard at the High Court. 

Lorna Savage (43) of Cobh, County Cork, has been granted with permission to pursue her claim for compensation for medication side effects against the manufacturer of the medication-Pfizer-after a hearing at the High Court. Pfizer had applied to have the case dismissed due to the length of time that had passed since the claim was first filed against them.

Mr Justice George Birmingham heard at the hearing that Lorna was first prescribed the steroid Deltacortril in 1997 to treat the skin disorder vasculitis. Vasculitis is a condition which in which damaged blood vessels cluster together and cause an irritable rash on the surface of the skin.

Lorna claims that after a few years of taking the steroid, her condition deteriorated due to her developing Avascular Necrosis. This disease had been established as a rare side effect to the steroid Deltacortril, and prevents blood from reaching the bones of the knee and hip joints. This lack of blood causes the bone tissue in these areas to die-ultimately resulting in the knee and hip bones collapsing entirely.

Four years after her initial prescription, Lorna had both of her knees and one of her hips replaced. The Avascular Necrosis had spread to such an extent that she is now entirely reliant on a wheelchair to move, and has to take morphine to deal with the continual discomfort of the disease.

Lorna sought legal advice, and made a claim for medication side effects against the two doctors who had prescribed her the drug-GP Dr Michael Madigan and her consultant doctor at the Cork University Hospital-Dr M Molloy.

In her claim against Dr Madigan’s estate (he died in 1999), Lorna claimed that he had failed to fully investigate her skin condition and had been negligent to her health in prescribing her Deltacortril when he should have been aware of all potential side effects. In her claim against Dr Molloy, Lorna claimed that he had been negligent in recognising the symptoms of Avascular Necrosis.

Lorna also made a further claim for medication side effects compensation against the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. She claimed that he company did not provide a warning in the literature that accompanied their stereos that their use could case Avascular Necrosis, and had not advised against the consumption of alcohol while taking the tablets.

All of the defendants denied that they were guilty of negligence, and Pfizer applied to have Lorna’s claim dismissed on the grounds of “an inordinate and inexcusable delay” in bringing her case to court.

At court, the judge was informed that the cause of the delay was due to Lorna being unable to instruct her solicitors as she had undergone a total of seven major operations. Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled the delay “excusable”, and denied Pfizer’s application to dismiss the case. The case was listed for a full hearing later in the year.