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Coquitlam pharmacy denies liability after drug allegedly led to compulsive gambling, shopping

Lawsuit says the patient was prescribed Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic medication, that led to a three-month binge of compulsive gambling, shopping, eating and sexual behaviour
Como Lake Ave Shoppers
The drug, Abilify, was prescribed at the Shoppers Drug Mart run by Plateau Pharmacy Ltd. on Como Lake Ave. in Coquitlam.

A Coquitlam pharmacy has denied any liability in a lawsuit claiming one of its doctors prescribed a drug that triggered a three-month spree of compulsive gambling, shopping, eating and sexual behaviour.

In an amended lawsuit filed Feb. 8, 2021, Jenifer Purchas claims Dr. Stephen Ayotunde Ogunremi and Plateau Pharmacy Ltd.  — which runs the Shoppers Drug Mart at 1960 Como Lake Ave. — failed to use reasonable care, skill and diligence in her treatment. 

The lawsuit reaches back to Nov. 4, 2019, when Ogunremi prescribed Purshas with a drug sold as Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic medication containing aripiprazole and prescribed to patients to treat schizophrenia, manic depression and major depressive disorder, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that shortly after Purchas began taking the drug, compulsive gambling and shopping sprees led to weight gain, a “loss of relationship” and “substantial” debt accumulated through credit cards, lines of credit, loans from family members and an increase in her mortgage.

Within three months, “she had accumulated significant debt and suffered extensive losses,” claims the lawsuit. 

Alleging negligence, medical malpractice and a breach of contract due to failing to act with reasonable skill and care, the lawsuit claims the pharmacy and the doctor either knew or should have known that Abilify posed a serious risk of compulsive behaviour in patients, and that both the business and Ogunremi failed to warn Purchas of that risk. 

For failing to use reasonable care, skill and diligence in Purchas’s treatment, the lawsuit seeks a number of damages, including for breach of contract, lost income, future earning capacity and loss of money due to her compulsive behaviour.

PHARMACY DENIES LIABILITY

In a March 2 response to the lawsuit, Plateau Pharmacy Inc. denied any liability in the case, stating the prescription was refilled on multiple occasions “in accordance with all applicable standards.”

While the pharmacy said it was aware the manufacture of the drug warned of reports of compulsive behaviour — including compulsive spending and increased gambling urges — any negligence or breach of duty lay at the feet of Ogunremi or Purchas.

In its response to the suit, the pharmacy says it offered counselling to Purchas when she was first prescribed Abilify and at each point the prescription was refilled. 

But the woman declined the offer each time, countered Plateau, adding that if the women suffered any alleged consequences, it was because she “failed to mitigate her losses.” 

Ogunremi, who works at the Fraser Health-run Tri-Cities Mental Health Centre, has not yet submitted any legal documents answering either Puchas’s or the pharmacy’s allegations. 

A spokesperson for Fraser Health declined to comment on the case, citing the fact the health authority is not a party to the lawsuit and "it is a private human resources matter."

None of the allegations have been tested in court.