Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Philadelphia
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has dubbed the state’s opioid problem as “the worst public health crisis” in the state. Affecting residents from small towns to major cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, 78% of Pennsylvania counties had an overdose death rate higher than the national average in 2016. In fact, the overall overdose death rate in Pennsylvania is over double the national average. The crisis is so significant that on January 10, 2018, Governor Wolf signed a 90-day statewide disaster declaration.
It’s important to understand the role that physicians play in the opioid and addiction crisis. According to the 2016 DEA Drug Overdose Report, of the 4,642 drug-related overdose deaths in statewide, opioids were found in 85%. Staggeringly, 25% of these opioids were validly prescribed by a physician.
The opioid crisis developed as physicians started prescribing opioids for chronic conditions that are painful, but not life-threatening, such as joint or back pain and osteoarthritis. This led to acute pain medication overprescribing. The diversion of leftover or extra medication puts additional people at risk, with up to 20% of all opioid pills prescribed in the United States actually being taken for nonmedical reasons. Individuals who became hooked on legally prescribed opioids frequently turned to illegal drugs to continue to feed their addiction; some 65% of heroin users report using prescription opioids first before switching to heroin.
Despite prescribing protocols from the Center for Disease Control and access to Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, many physicians fail to appropriately prescribe and monitor opioids. This can lead to a spiral of addiction and injury that some patients cannot overcome.
In 2017, a Missouri Court of Appeals upheld $15 million in punitive damages against a St. Louis doctor and hospital for overprescribing painkillers to a man suffering from chronic back pain. The physician prescribed three opioids at the same time. Despite knowledge of dependency, the physician filled requests for early refills and continued to increase the medication dosage, in absence of consultation, to levels far higher than the upper limit of the medication’s dosing parameters.
If you or a loved one have been unnecessarily prescribed opioid pain medication that has resulted in injury, a serious health problem, or wrongful death, contact the Wieand Law Firm, LLC for a free case review. The Wieand Law Firm, LLC will take the time to listen and provide that skilled advice you need to take action and seek fair compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and suffering.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.