Princeton couple blame doctor for man's stroke

By Kelly Holleran | Jul 28, 2009

PRINCETON -- A Princeton man and his wife blame a doctor and physician's assistant for causing a stroke the man suffered after he took an appetite suppressant for a little less than one month.

Rick and Kristi Barlow filed a lawsuit June 8 in federal court against the United State of America, Bluestone Health Center, Dr. Hamza Rana and physician's assistant Jennifer Rebecca Riffe.

The Barlows claim Riffe, who was under the supervision of Rana, prescribed Rick Barlow a 30-day supply of Phentermine 37.5 mg dosage on June 12, 2007, even though she knew Rick Barlow had a history of hypertension.

"It is widely known in the medical community that Phentermine should not be prescribed to individuals with hypertension because it substantially increases the likelihood of a stroke," the suit states.

Indeed, on July 11, 2007, Rick Barlow suffered from a stroke, according to the complaint.

"The daily ingestion of 37.5 mg of Phentermine, coupled with inadequate monitoring and control of his hypertension, and lack of timely treatment of his resultant stroke due to his lack of awareness of possible complications of Phentermine therapy caused the permanent neurologic disability of Mr. Barlow," the complaint says.

As a result of Rick Barlow's neurologic disability, he has been awarded social security disability benefits, according to the complaint.

Because of Rick Barlow's stroke, Kristi Barlow alleges she has suffered a loss of her husband's love, affection, companionship and consortium.

In an affidavit, Dr. Gregory D. Clarke says Riffe should not have prescribed Rick Barlow the Phentermine as it was not in her authority, or any physician's assistant's authority, to do so.

"It is my opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Ms. Riffe and Dr. Rana breached the standard of medical care in WV in the prescribing, monitoring and treatment of Ricky Barlow during the period of June 12, 2007 through July 11, 2007," Clarke wrote in his affidavit.

The Barlows claim the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Bluestone and Rana are liable for the Barlows' damages through the actions of their employees and failed to properly train their employees, failed to properly supervise their employees, failed to require employees to properly administer their duties and negligently hired and retained their employees.

In the four-count suit, the Barlows are seeking unspecified damages and punitive damages, plus reimbursement of past and future medical bills, costs, pre-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

Harry F. Bell, Andrew Paternostro and Robert W. Absten of Bell and Bands in Charleston will be representing the Barlows.

U.S. District Court case number: 1:09-631

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