A nine-year-old girl was rushed to Queen's Medical Centre after a pharmacist mistakenly prescribed her methadone – a substitute for heroin used to treat recovering drug addicts. Ruby-Mai Bell, of Arkwright Walk, The Meadows, was supposed to be given antibiotics for a water infection at a Nottingham pharmacy on Tuesday. Instead, there was a mix up of medicines, and she was handed methadone, a synthetic opiate, which has similar effects to heroin. Her mother, Donna Buckley, a care assistant, 36, was unaware of the mix up and gave her daughter two spoonfuls. It was only when the pharmacist knocked on her front door that the mistake became apparent.
She said: "Ruby went upstairs to lie down and I went to check on her later and she was really sleepy. I noticed her eyes were rolling around and I thought I would not give her any more medicine. There was then a knock at the door and it was the pharmacist. He said that there had been a mix up and 'have we got the medicine he gave to Ruby this morning? He said she will be fine, but wanted a private meeting at the pharmacy the next day."
Miss Buckley and her partner Ralph Bell, 38, said their daughter felt "really warm". They were so concerned about her state that they returned to the pharmacy. The pharmacist then accompanied them to their home and told them Ruby-Mai had been given methadone. Miss Buckley said: "I was hysterical. The state I was in was unreal. I thought I was going to lose my daughter when I heard that word – methadone. "The only reason I did not give her any more was because she was so sleepy. It is still in my head about what if we gave her more. We would have lost her."
Mr Bell added: "What happened was awful. It was not until he came back a second time that we knew. As soon as I knew what had happened I rushed up the stairs, got her in the car and got her to hospital." The distraught couple then rushed Ruby-Mai to A&E at Queen's Medical Centre where she underwent a series of tests and had to be monitored overnight.
Ruby-Mai, a Welbeck Primary School pupil, told the Post: "I am scared to take medicine now because I took the wrong medicine and it made me really poorly. Mum said that grandma came on the day but I can't remember anything. I am back at school today and I am enjoying it."
The pharmacy has now written to the couple explaining the mix-up and NHS England has launched a full investigation. The letter states: "I am contacting you regarding the incident involving the dispensing of Ruby-Mai's prescription in which she was supplied with Methadone 1mg/1ml oral solution rather than the Trimethoprim 50mg/5ml oral solution prescribed by her GP.
"I would like to begin by apologising on behalf of the company for the distress and inconvenience this incident has caused Ruby-Mai and yourselves. Incidents such as these are always taken seriously and investigated in full to try to find out what happened, what we can learn from it and what we can do differently to reduce the likelihood of it happening again. I felt it was important to contact you at the earliest opportunity to let you know an investigation is underway and that this incident has been reported to all appropriate external agencies who I will update as my investigation continues."
Nottinghamshire Police is also investigating this incident and told the Post that it had received a report of an incident involving a nine-year-old girl allegedly being prescribed methadone by mistake, instead of antibiotics. A spokeswoman for the police said: "The girl was taken to the Queen's Medical Centre after ingesting the drug but has since been discharged. Enquiries are ongoing and Nottinghamshire Police is liaising with other agencies under local authority child protection procedures."
A spokeswoman for Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said: "A patient was admitted to the Emergency Department at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust after being supplied the incorrect medication by a pharmacy in the community. As part of our internal processes we have reported this incident to NHS England for review."
Oliver Newbould, locality director for NHS England - North Midlands, said: "NHS England has been made aware of a potential drug dispensing error at the pharmacy. Such incidents are very rare and a full investigation is underway by the pharmacy. NHS England will ensure that as a result of this investigation, appropriate actions are taken and any lessons to be learned are shared.''
Matt Goode, a lawyer for ABR Solicitors, who has met with the family, told the Post: "I have never heard of anything like this before. It is more startling because methadone is used for people with a heroin addiction. They normally administrate to the patient directly in the pharmacy. The fact that these parents have been given the whole bottle of methadone is horrendous. It is just madness. You have given a child a Class A drug."
Pharmacists Mistakenly Gives 9-Year-Old Methadone Instead of Antibiotic