A High Court judge has given his permission for a claim for the negligent prescription of steroids to go ahead after denying an application to dismiss the case.
Lorna Savage (43) from Cobh in County Cork was given permission to proceed with her claim for the negligent prescription of steroids after an application to dismiss her claim by the steroids manufacturer – Pfizer – was denied by Mr Justice George Birmingham at the High Court.
Lorna had initially been prescribed the steroid Deltacortril by her GP when she was twenty-seven years old in order to treat the skin disorder vasculitis – a condition in which damaged blood vessels group together and form an irritable and unsightly rash.
After taking Deltacortril for several years, Lorna developed the condition Avascular Necrosis – a known but uncommon adverse reaction to the steroid – a disorder which prevents blood from reaching specific bones, so that the bone tissue dies and the bone eventually crumbles away.
By the time Lorna was thirty-one years old, she had one hip and both knees replaced and her condition had worsened to such a degree that she was confined to a wheelchair and was taking morphine to manage her pain.
Lorna made a compensation claim for the negligent prescription of steroids against her GP – Dr. Michael Madigan – and her consultant doctor at Cork University Hospital – Dr. M Molloy – who continued to prescribe Deltacortril after Dr. Madigan´s death in 1999.
In her claim against the GP, Lorna alleged that Dr. Madigan had not sufficiently investigated her vasculitis disorder and had negligently prescribed Deltacortril tablets when he was (or should have been) knowledgeable of the potential risks of taking the steroids.
Lorna´s claim for the negligent prescription of steroids alleged that Dr. Molloy had continued to prescribe the steroids after Dr. Madigan´s death and that he had failed to identify the symptoms of Avascular Necrosis despite her deteriorating condition.
Lorna also included the Pfizer in her compensation claim – alleging that manufacturer of the steroid had neglected to warn people taking Deltacortril that continued use of the steroids could result in Avascular Necrosis. Lorna also claimed that neither her doctors nor Pfizer gave any warnings against drinking alcohol while taking the tablets.
Pfizer, Dr. Madigan´s estate, and the HSE (on behalf of the Cork University Hospital and Dr. Molloy) each denied negligence. Pfizer applied to have Lorna´s claim for the negligent prescription of steroids dismissed on the grounds that there had been an “inexcusable delay” in bringing the case to court.
However, after hearing arguments from Lorna´s solicitors and the defendants, Mr Justice George Birmingham decided that the delay was “excusable” because the delay in bringing the case to court had been due by Lorna having to undergo more operations in the recent past.
The extended recovery period from the operations, Judge Birmingham said, had prevented Lorna from instructing her solicitors and was a valid explanation for the delay. The judge denied Pfizer´s application to dismiss the case – and ordered that Lorna´s claim for the negligent prescription of steroids be listed for a hearing in the High Court later in 2014.