Sunderland woman died after missing epilepsy tablets

HM Coroner Derek Winter
HM Coroner Derek Winter
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A WOMAN with learning difficulties died after not taking medication to control her epilepsy properly, an inquest heard.

Karen MacIntyre was found dead at her home in Sunderland by her partner, who also has learning difficulties, in April.

A coroner was told she had not responded to letters sent out by her GP after missing an appointment to discuss the powerful 100mg tablets.

Miss MacIntyre, who lived with partner Melvin Musgrove in Rhodesia Road, Red House, should have been taking epilepsy drug Lamotrigine.

Tests by bio-chemist Dr Stephen Morley found small amounts of the drug in her system, which he said showed either “poor compliance or low dosage”.

Dr Majella Soumakiyan, who became Miss MacIntyre’s GP, said she was diagnosed with the condition when she was just one and was prescribed the medication – which can cause serious side effects including low moods and stomach upsets – in 1998.

A review carried out by Castletown Medical Centre in January 2011 revealed she was having problems with the drug, but she did not keep a follow-up appointment and her original GP retired.

Miss MacIntyre asked for a repeat prescription in May 2011 when Dr Soumakiyan reviewed her file.

Dr Soumakiyan said: “Looking through her notes, I realised there was quite an inconsistency of obtaining prescriptions, so I wrote to her and asked her to come in and see me, because I don’t normally sign the prescriptions if I have never met the patient and there is issues with compliance.”

But Miss MacIntyre did not keep the appointment and the surgery did not have a contact number for her. She was also due for medication review around the time of her 48th birthday in January.

But she died before this took place, as a practice nurse leaving the surgery led to a four-month delay in reviews.

Dr Soumakiyan admitted there was no system in place to flag up if patients were not requesting repeat prescriptions, but she would be made aware if there was a long gap between requests. She also wrote to patients three times if they missed an appointment and a record of “non-compliant” patient was now being kept.

However, this system was not put in place until she took over the practice. She added that there was nothing in Miss MacIntyre’s notes to say she had learning problems.

Miss MacIntyre’s brother John said he did not think his sister had understood the risks of not taking the medication. He also added police did not find any Lamotrigine in the flat.

Coroner Derek Winter said Miss MacIntyre died of natural causes and he would not be using his powers to call for an inquiry into Dr Soumakiyan’s surgery.

Pathologist Dr Sidiq Tijani prepared a report for the hearing which concluded the 48-year-old died of sudden, unexpected death in epilepsy. She also suffered from chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and bronchitis.

Verdict: natural causes.

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