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Court says man can sue for pharmacist’s joke

The Arizona Court of Appeals has decided that a national chain of pharmacies can face a lawsuit after one of its pharmacists joked with a man’s ex-wife about a prescription for erectile dysfunction drugs. The lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court and the man’s attorney appealed; the Court of Appeals brought parts of the lawsuit back. The lawsuit is set to continue on allegations of negligence under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal healthcare privacy law.

The case is noteworthy because it represents the first time it has been decided that Arizona state courts can hear HIPAA negligence claims. According to the ruling, a man in his 50s got a sample of an erectile dysfunction pill in 2016 and later got a call from the national pharmacy chain saying that a full prescription of the drug was ready to be picked up. The man canceled the prescription. He canceled it again approximately one month later when he called the pharmacy to check on an unrelated prescription.

Some time later, the man authorized the pharmacy to let his ex-wife pick up a regular refill for him, and during that errand, the pharmacist joked with her about the erectile dysfunction prescription. According to the ruling, the man was attempting to reconcile the relationship with his ex-wife, but reconciliation failed after the incident at the pharmacy.

The provisions of HIPAA and privacy laws generally create areas of vulnerability for pharmacies. An attorney who works with pharmacies can help them understand their responsibilities to patients. The Arizona PBM Blog has stories and information about how the law impacts the pharmacy business. An attorney might help pharmacists comply with the requirements of federal and state law or bring a defense on behalf of clients who are sued.

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