Burnaby man spends week in ICU after being given opioid instead of antibiotics
BURNABY -- Barry Norton was active and healthy. But Saturday afternoon, he was filling a prescription for antibiotics at Shoppers Drug Mart on Kingsway when he was given a cup of pills and told to take them on the spot.
“He said, 'What's going through my mind is, well this is a different antibiotic,'” his wife Shelly said, recalling the conversation she had with Barry after his pharmacy visit.
Naturally, Barry was confused. He questioned the employee, who double checked with her colleague.
“He speaks up and he tells Barry, 'Yeah that’s right, you take that. Just take it and drink the water.'”
Barry went home and continued on with his day. Soon, his phone rang. It was the pharmacy.
Barry is a contractor and his phone records all conversations for work. This is the conversation he recorded:
Pharmacist: I need you to go to the hospital right now
Barry: Need me to go where?
Pharmacist: I need you to go to the hospital
Barry: A hospital?
Pharmacist: Yeah, she gave you the wrong medication
The pharmacy told Barry he was given a dose of the slow-release, powerful opioid known as Kadian, and a potentially lethal dose.
“The ICU nurse said if he had come home and consumed alcohol, like an afternoon beer or something, she said he would not be here today," Shelly recalled. "It would have killed him.”
He was rushed to hospital and collapsed in the bathroom. His blood pressure spiked and he was wrapped in compression bandages due to concerns about blood clots.
By Sunday, he had to be given a dose of Narcan to help restore consciousness, but he slipped in and out.
“We thought he was going to die," Shelly said.
Friday night, he was due to be discharged from the ICU, but tests revealed he had blood clots in both his lungs. He will also need to do follow-up testing for the next six months.
At this stage, his family doesn’t know what the long-term effects will be, and they want some answers.
“My husband deserves to be compensated for this," Shelly said.
Shoppers – owned by Loblaws – has launched an internal investigation, along with a separate investigation by the B.C. College of Pharmacists.
The college registrar, Bob Nakagawa, couldn’t comment on the specific case while the investigation was underway, but said there could be penalties.
“If there’s something that is felt that is necessary to have a penalty, we can suspend licenses, we can remove licenses from a pharmacist or impose sanctions,” Nakagawa said.
He said it’s important that both patients and the pharmacy check IDs before giving out prescriptions.
The family is in the process of speaking with lawyers about next steps. They believe the pharmacy thought Barry was someone who regularly comes in for an opioid prescription.