Mid-South man says medicine mix-up may cost him his life

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Mid-South man says a mix-up at a local pharmacy will likely cost him the use of his arms and legs.  Jerry Carter says Walgreens gave him the wrong medication after he was diagnosed with a rare disease.  Now, he hopes to live long enough to have his day in court.  

Carter was a healthy husband and father with a successful career in construction until a rare disease trapped in a wheelchair.

"It's an auto-immune disease that is attacking the mylan around my nerves and my peripherals," he said. "My hands my feet."

In 2004, Carter was diagnosed with C.I.D.P., or Chronic Inflammatory Demialating Polyeuropothy.  Carter believes his damaged nerves might have healed, if not for an error at a Walgreens pharmacy.

"Walgreens gave me the wrong medication," he said.

After being diagnosed, Carter was hospitalized and treated with a heavy dose of the drug Cytoxin.

"After that I did get better," he said.

He then took his prescription for an oral dose of the drug to the Walgreens Pharmacy in Lakeland.

"They filled it right the first time, and then for five months they filled it wrong," he said.

During those five months, Carter was taking Cytomel, not Cytoxin. What he thought was a generic substitute for Cytoxin was actually a thyroid medicine his doctors say he did not need.

Three months in, his condition began to deteriorate.

"I know that I would be better had I not been on the wrong medication," he said.
 
The Carters filed a lawsuit against Walgreens in 2005, but are still waiting for their case to go to trial.
 
"They're just dragging it on," said Jerry's wife, Diana. "They don't care about my husband."
 
Carter's attorney says expert witnesses will prove he would have regained full use of his arms and legs if he'd been taking the right medication. Instead, his damaged nerves went beyond the point of repairing themselves.
 
"And so that five month period was critical to Mr. Carter's future," said his attorney, James Hodges.
 
A Walgreens spokesperson told us "We cannot comment on pending litigation."  But at a hearing in February, attorneys for the company argued there is no scientific proof that the Cytoxin would have healed Carter.

The trial was delayed until October.  While they wait, Carter's medical bills have put the couple deeply in debt. His insurance benefits are tapped out, and the couple has sold everything they can.  They are at risk of losing their home.
 
"They did admit it right after it happened. They did admit it, and called and apologized and everything," the Carters said. "They acted like they really cared. Bottom line, they don't care."
 
Hodges believes his client's long term care will cost much more than the $30,000 out-of-court settlement Walgreens offered.

"No amount of money in the world is going to make Mr. Carter right again," he said.

And while Carter waits for his day in court, he has a valuable lesson to share:
 
"I would like to say to the people: check your medications."
 
According to the FDA, 4 million people end up in the emergency room or a doctor's office every year because they got the wrong medicine or the wrong dose.  The FDA recently launched a new "Safe Use Initiative" to protect patients.  You can read more about that initiative here.

The case of Jerry Carter vs. Walgreens is scheduled to go to trial October 4th.

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