The nation’s opioid addiction crisis has become an epidemic, with an estimated economic burden totaling $78.5 billion annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioid overdoses also claim the lives of roughly 90 Americans each day. With such far-reaching consequences to public health and social and economic welfare, advocates, experts, and families have been exploring the many causes of opioid use and addiction to determine where culpability lies. Among other factors, prescription medications are at the top of the list.
According to CDC statistics, prescriptions for opioid painkillers in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled since 1999. With an undeniable correlation between a rise in prescriptions and substantial casualties, the fight against the opioid crisis and questionable practices of the pharmaceutical industry and health care providers is being driven in part by lawsuits filed in our civil justice system. For example:
- Nearly 30 cities, counties, and states across the U.S. have filed federal civil lawsuits against the opioid industry in the past year alone, which includes manufacturers, distributors, and retailers that aggressively push highly addictive narcotics onto the market. These entities benefit from an industry that makes $13 billion per year.
- There have been recent increases in medical malpractice lawsuits involving inappropriate prescribing practices of health care providers. These claims allege that negligent prescription not only harms patients and their loved ones but also contributes to the flood of drugs into the black market.
Lawsuits against the opioid industry are similar to those filed against tobacco companies in the 1990s, and they focus on the tremendous impact opioid medications have had on the public and government-run resources – including law enforcement, corrections and incarceration, and health care. They also speak to the profound impact opioid addiction, and overdose have on individuals and families – an impact that can be more closely illustrated in medical malpractice and wrongful death cases.
Opioids & Medical Malpractice
A recent study from a medical liability insurer found that prescription painkillers are the basis of more medical malpractice claims involving drug errors than any other drug class. Researchers noted the following:
- Although opioids account for only 5% of all prescription drugs, they comprise 24% of medication-related claims, researchers found.
- Claims often involve overdose, as well as allegations that patients became addicted to painkillers.
- Over a third of opioid-related malpractice claims involve errors or failures during the follow-up phase of prescribing. Physicians commonly renewed prescriptions without appropriately monitoring them.
In medical malpractice cases involving opioids, victims and families commonly allege that medical professionals failed in some way to properly prescribe prescription drugs – particularly when those medications are known for being highly addictive and deadly. By law, medical professionals have a legal obligation to treat patients in accordance with acceptable health care standards, which entails taking reasonable measures to reduce risks of preventable harm posed by dangerous drugs.
While new laws are being passed to increase regulation and enforcement of irresponsible prescribing practices (which often involves the mandated use of a database to review a patient’s medical history before prescribing certain medications), these new standards don’t always protect patients from the negligence of medical professionals. Victims and families have turned to medical malpractice lawsuits over negligent prescription and medication errors to hold medical professionals accountable and liable for their damages.
At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin, our legal team takes pride in harnessing the power of our civil justice system to not only secure justice and compensation for the seriously injured and families who have lost loved ones due to negligence, but also to compel changes that support a stronger focus on public safety. Just as we view our role in product liability cases as a service for public safety, we believe that by helping victims of negligent prescribing make their voices heard, we further the mission to address a problem that harms too many Americans.
If you have questions about a potential medical malpractice claim involving opioid prescriptions, including cases of addiction, overdose, or wrongful death, our caring and compassionate legal team is here to help. Based in West Palm Beach, our firm represents clients throughout the state of Florida and offers free case evaluations to help you learn more about your rights. Contact us today to get started.