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Student dies after exposure to potent pain medication

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A St. John’s University pharmacy student was killed when he came in contact with a potent drug — a pain medication 80 times more powerful than morphine — while working unsupervised at a company being probed for unsafe practices, a lawsuit says.

James Yoo, 22, of Manhattan, began working at Rockwell Compounding Associates in February last year as part of an externship required for a doctorate in pharmacology.

St. John’s is expected to place students in programs that are safe and well supervised, says the suit, filed by Yoo’s family against the university and the Rye-based company in Queens Supreme Court.

Rockwell was being probed at the time by the Board of Regents for allegedly compounding medicines without patient prescriptions and contaminating medications.

Four days into his externship, Yoo’s skin came in contact with the drug fentanyl, an autopsy shows.

Fentanyl, typically prescribed to cancer patients for pain, can be absorbed through the skin. As little as 2 milligrams can be fatal.

Yoo collapsed at the site and died six days later.

“For a young man to be left exposed to an extremely dangerous drug such as fentanyl only a few days into his externship program at Rockwell Compounding smacks of negligent training and supervision,” said his family’s lawyer, Joshua Gropper.

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