New Jersey Trial Lawyers Handling Opioid Litigation
Aggressive representation for NJ clients in opioid prescription lawsuits
At Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP, we hold negligent doctors accountable when they breach their duty of care to their patients, and prescribe powerful, addictive opioid painkillers to patients who might or who already are abusing them. We are at the forefront of opioid litigation in NJ. If you or someone you care about has suffered injury and losses because of opioid over-prescribing, our NJ medical negligence attorneys are here to help you obtain justice.
What are opioids?
Opioids are narcotic drugs often prescribed for severe or chronic pain conditions. Unlike opiates, which are created from the poppy plant, opioids are often entirely synthetic, created in labs run by pharmaceutical companies. They bind to your pain receptors, which then lessens the pain you feel.
Originally, opioids like fentanyl were designed to help people with terminal diseases, or acute pains related to cancer. That is no longer the case. While opioid painkillers may be a valid component of treatment for some, they can have serious, possibly fatal side effects and have a high probability of abuse.
The role of doctors in the over-prescribing of opioids
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed to patients in the U.S. in 2017. Between 1999 and 2016, more than 630,000 people have died from drug overdose with about 66% of those drug overdose deaths involving an opioid.
The genesis of the opioid epidemic began in the early 2000s when the manufacturers of opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet began aggressively marketing their painkillers to doctors for their patients for routine pain management rather than the severe pain that cancer patients suffer. As doctors shifted their prescribing policies and prescribed opioids for more routine pain management, they did not seem to consider the prospect of dependence and addiction.
Physicians owe a duty of care to their patients to prescribe medication responsibly taking into consideration the drug’s potential for abuse. When a person dies from an overdose of opioids because of over-prescribing, the relatives of the deceased can file civil and sometimes even criminal charges depending on the circumstances. There is also third-party liability for doctors when the court holds doctors liable for damages created by opioid-related addiction or overdoses. If a person whose opioid addiction is being fueled by prescriptions causes a car crash, the injured person could pursue the prescribing doctor for his or her losses.
Unless they are used for the correct medical 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.
Prescriber negligence in opioid abuse
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 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.
Types of opioid painkillers
There are several types of drugs that are categorized as opioid painkillers, including:
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
- Hydrocodone (commonly known by brand name Vicodin)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Morphine (MS Contin)
- Oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin)
- Propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet)
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.
NJ opioid lawsuit against drug manufacturers
Last fall, the New Jersey Attorney General, Christopher Porrino, filed a five-count lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, alleging a “direct link” between the opioid epidemic and the drug maker’s effort to boost profits by “deceptively” marketing the addictive prescription drugs. (according to USA Today)
Medical conditions caused by opioid abuse
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 several serious health conditions, including:
- 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
- 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
Patients attempting to stop an opioid regimen may experience painful and difficult withdrawal symptoms and switching opioid medications (known as opioid rotation) can come with its own set of complications.
Work with an experienced NJ opioid overdose attorney
At Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, we know what it takes to hold doctors accountable for their responsibility to their patients. When you have felt the pain of losing a loved one who overdosed because of the over-prescription of opioids, or you or someone you care about is addicted to opioids and it is causing serious problems, it may be time to take legal action. We offer aggressive representation for those injured because of medical negligence. Schedule a free consultation with a NJ medical negligence lawyer today.
FDA regulation of opioids
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, which advises 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.
Aggressive representation in opioid litigation in New Jersey
New Jersey opioid drug lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP have the knowledge and experience to handle all types of painkiller overdose cases including opioid overdoses. 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 732-384-1331 or contact us online for a free consultation with a qualified NJ painkiller overdose lawyer.