An “overworked” pharmacist made a tragic error and gave out the wrong pills to a grandmother who became ill within minutes and later died, a court has heard.
Martin White, 45, of Belfast Road, Muckamore, County Antrim, admitted supplying the wrong prescription drugs to Ethna Walsh, 67, in February 2014.
A defence lawyer said White was “an ordinary man who struggled because he worked too hard”.
He will be sentenced later this month.
Antrim Crown Court heard Mrs Walsh had gone to the Clear pharmacy in Station Road, Antrim, and submitted a prescription for a drug called prednisolone.
But White mistakenly picked up a box of propranolol.
At home, Mrs Walsh’s husband Joe gave her some of the tablets.
However, a prosecution lawyer said that within minutes, she had difficulty breathing. Her husband immediately phoned for an ambulance and she was taken to hospital, where she later died.
The lawyer said that White told police he must have mistakenly picked up the propranolol instead of the prednisolone as the two boxes have similar branding and were side-by-side on the shelf.
White claimed he had carried out the required checks under the Pharmacy Standard Operation Procedures, the court heard.
He had also complained about working in a cramped space and had recently seen his GP about his feelings of low mood, tiredness and fatigue.
An expert who investigated what had happened said accuracy checks should have been carried out but were not, and this had led to the tragic error.
However, the expert deemed that White was guilty only of “poor professional performance” as opposed to “professional misconduct”.
‘Destroyed with remorse’
A defence lawyer said that since the tragedy, White had been too frightened to return to work because he was so “racked with guilt”. He said he had been receiving psychiatric help.
The lawyer said the pharmacist had expressly instructed him “to offer his abject apology to each and every member of Mrs Walsh’s family… although he accepts it may not be very well received”.
Earlier, the defence lawyer described his client as a man with a hitherto unblemished character.
He said that the tragic consequences of his mistake had left White “destroyed with remorse”.
He was acutely aware that he was responsible for the tragedy “and will carry it for the rest of his life, and if he could turn the clock back he would”, said his lawyer.
He said that White was “an ordinary man who struggled because he worked too hard… regularly working up to 60 hours a week… always on call.”
“This is his first mistake after almost a quarter of a century of employment,” he said.