This week (25 Feb) The Sligo Champion reported on the inquest of Teresa Mullaney, age 70. According to the Champion, Teresa was a retired nurse who spent her life looking after others, was dearly loved by all her family and had a heart of gold.
Click on picture to see the Sligo Champion Article.
In February last year Mrs Mullaney had a knee operation. It seems that she was prescribed Venlafaxine which is known here as Effexor, possibly following the surgery. Some time later her mood worsened and she feared that her medication had been changed without her knowledge. When the family checked with the pharmacist, this was indeed found to be the case, that her usual medication had been changed to the generic version. Shortly afterwards Teresa was switched back to the original version of Effexor plus an anti-anxiety pill. Zyprexa (Olanzapine) was added into the mix, despite coming with a black-box warning in the US for the elderly. A short time later Teresa spent 2 weeks in St Columba’s hospital in order to ‘stabilise her prescribed medication’. The family said she became deeply distressed and agitated. Her son described her last few days as being spent in a ‘torturous trance’; her joy was gone.
Both Effexor and Zyprexa come with a US black box warning and both are associated with an increased risk of suicide. The ‘anti-anxiety’ pill most likely does too. Sadly, but not surprisingly, 4 days after leaving St Columba’s hospital, Teresa checked into the Great Southern Hotel and took an overdose, which resulted in her death. The family have raised a number of issues:
1. The total lack of communication between the doctors and the family.
2. Questions need to be asked about generic versions of prescription drugs.
3. The level of ‘care’ Teresa received in her last few months.
4. How could Teresa, who was recently released from hospital, be allowed access to a months supply of medication.
The Coroner, Dr Desmond Moran, said that St Columba’s will have to take note of drugs coming with a suicide risk. He said “If the drug is adding the risk, there has to be a wonder why it’s being prescribed”. He further stated that there should be proper supervision when medications are changed.
The jury at Teresa’s inquest made a number of recommendations, including:
1. That generic drugs should not be prescribed without proper communication and
2. That appropriate supervision should be maintained where medication has been changed, particularly in psychiatric illness cases.
Sadly for Teresa and her family, the Irish Human Rights Commission made similar recommendations following Shane’s death, which if acted upon by the medical profession in this country, would probably have saved her life! Let’s hope that Teresa’s death can influence doctors when prescribing these highly dangerous drugs in others. Condolences to the family of the lovely Teresa.