New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Opioid Prescription Lawsuits
Opioids are narcotic drugs often prescribed for severe or chronic pain conditions. Although they may be a valid component of treatment for those suffering from an injury or an illness that causes pain, they can have serious, possibly fatal side effects. These drugs are heavily promoted by their manufacturers, and in the last decade, opioid prescriptions have tripled. In fact, data shows that physicians too often are negligent in overprescribing opioids which have highly addictive qualities.
Types of Opioid Painkillers
There are several types of drugs that are categorized as opioid painkillers, including:
- Hydrocodone (commonly known by brand name Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
- Propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet)
- Morphine (MS Contin)
Medical Conditions Caused by Opioids
These drugs are very effective in relieving pain, but over time, patients can develop a tolerance which would require them to take higher doses to get the same level of relief. High doses of opioids can cause a number of serious health conditions, including:
- Respiratory depression – opioids suppress the brain’s mechanism that controls breathing, which can cause breathing to slow or stop
- Serotonin syndrome – opioids cause an increase in serotonin in the body, which negatively affects brain and nerve cell function; symptoms have a wide range and include shivering, diarrhea, fever, seizures, and muscle fatigue
- Androgen deficiency – opioids inhibit production of androgen, a hormone needed for proper sexual functioning
- Adrenal insufficiency – opioids prevent the adrenal glands from producing enough cortisol, a hormone which regulates cardiovascular function, blood pressure, and metabolism
Additionally, opioids are highly addictive. Patients attempting to stop an opioid regiment may experience painful withdrawal symptoms, and switching opioid medications (known as opioid rotation) can come with its own set of complications.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has introduced strict regulations for opioids, including a requirement label for immediate release opioids, which are typically taken every four to six hours, with a black box warning patients of the risk of addiction and overdose. Warning labels on opioids must also contain information about the health conditions that can be caused by opioid use, which includes risks to the babies of pregnant women taking the drugs. The FDA also requires clear dosage instructions on each medication, and labels on certain medications, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, must state that they are intended for use only in cases where no other pain relief method has proven effective.
Prescription Errors in Opioid Use
While there are numerous pain specialists who understand how opioids can be used effectively, many general practitioners and other physicians who prescribe these drugs lack the knowledge and experience to prescribe them safely. Some medical professionals may prescribe opioids for conditions for which they are not safe, prescribe too high a dose, or prescribe the wrong opioid for a particular patient. Studies show that doctors who do not specialize in pain often get the dosage wrong, which can have disastrous consequences for patients. When a prescription error involving opioids causes harm to a patient, the doctor or hospital involved may be found medically negligent.
Off-Label Use of Opioids
Aggressive marketing strategies from drug companies may also play a significant role in the increased use of opioids. Opioids are very strong drugs designed for patients in extreme pain, but numerous lawsuits allege that companies market them for mild pain or discomfort despite the numerous health risks and addictive nature of the drugs. This approach has been highly lucrative, as sales of the drugs have increased dramatically in the last 20 years. By promoting opioid use for off-label uses, drug companies are leveraging the health and safety of their patients to increase their profit margins, contributing to the nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction.
New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP Fight for Justice for Victims of Overdose
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 40 Americans lose their lives each day from opioid overdose. Unless they are used for the correct condition and in the correct dosage, opioid painkillers can do much more harm than good. Doctors and drug companies have a responsibility to patients to ensure that the drugs are used safely for their intended purpose. When they fail to do so, patients and their families may be able to pursue legal action against them for their negligence.
New Jersey opioid drug lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP have the knowledge and experience to handle all types of painkiller overdose cases. We will thoroughly review the facts of your case and prepare an aggressive legal strategy to win you the compensation you deserve and hold the responsible parties accountable for your suffering. With offices conveniently located in Edison, Toms River, and Red Bank, we serve clients throughout New Jersey. Call us today at 732-777-0100 or contact us online for a free consultation with a qualified painkiller overdose lawyer.