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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A lawsuit filed by an Illinois woman alleging that a Wal-Mart pharmacist failed to warn her of the side effects that could be caused by a medication can proceed to trial, the Associated Press reports.
The suit alleges that the Wal-Mart in McHenry, Ill. filled a prescription for Heidi Happel of McHenry in 1993 without warning her that it was dangerous for people with Happel's allergies. She is allergic to aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen -- information that was included in Wal-Mart's computer system.
Happel took the medication and soon went into shock. She says the incident worsened her multiple sclerosis and left her suffering seizures and asthma attacks.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on March 22 that the suit could go forward. Wal-Mart argued that it was the physician's responsibility to warn patients. Putting the burden on pharmacies will have a "chilling effect" and deter them from collecting any information about customers' allergies, the company said.
But the court disagreed. It held that when pharmacies collect such information, customers get the impression of greater safety. Pharmacies then must follow through by using the information.
"Wal-Mart already had the knowledge it needed in order to give an effective warning," wrote Justice Mary Ann G. McMorrow.
The company's attorneys were reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. Happel's attorney, Kenneth Chessick, said the decision provides more protection for consumers.
"Pharmacists are professionals who have a duty to warn patients when they know of a specific reason that this patient cannot take that drug," Chessick said. "They have got to tell the patient."