Right around the year 2000, a pharmaceutical manufacturer called Purdue Pharma was aggressively marketing prescription pain medication as a logical and long-term solution to recurring pain issues. The result of Purdue’s efforts sparked a sharp increase in prescription medication and, as a result, also contributed to the country’s growing opioid addiction.
In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to deceiving doctors about the potential addiction dangers of pain medication. As a result, the company has backed away from aggressively marketing its pain medication. Unfortunately, the opioid addiction that Purdue sparked has grown into a full-blown forest fire of prescription medication addiction, and now people are looking for places to point the finger of blame.
Who Is To Blame For Opioid Addiction?
Medical malpractice suits are now being filed against doctors by patients who claim that those doctors were responsible for their opioid addiction. But proving medical malpractice when it comes to opioid addiction can be tricky for several reasons.
To begin with, the actual rate of addiction to pain medication based on legitimate prescriptions is around 4.5 percent. This would indicate that while prescription opioids are addicting, there is not enough evidence to suggest that the mere act of prescribing pain medication constitutes medical malpractice.
Opioids and opiates have been proven to help manage pain. However, many researchers are starting to insist that the effects are limited to only a 12-week period. A doctor who continues to prescribe opioids after 12 weeks is, by these researchers’ account, contributing to addiction. But opioids also have a documented history of being legitimate long-term alternatives to more drastic solutions such as surgery. Since the research into the real long-term benefits of pain medication is ongoing, this cannot be a basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
How Bad Is The Problem?
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, nearly 10 percent of Americans ages 12 and older who had a drug addiction problem in 2014 were addicted to prescription pain medication. In 2014, it was estimated that 18,893 people died from either an intentional or accidental overdose of prescription painkillers. The problem is growing in the United States, and now many people are looking for answers.
In July 2016, the drug manufacturer Pfizer agreed to add warnings to its packaging. The wording and marketing for pain medication are meant to warn of the potential for addiction. Pfizer’s decision comes as part of a settlement with the city of Chicago in a lawsuit regarding pain medication marketing.
The new wording will warn doctors of the potential for addiction. In addition, the agreement also included removing any wording on marketing materials indicating that prescription medication is useful for common ailments such as back or leg pain.
The Problem Has Reached The Streets
Opiates are made from opium, which is the core ingredient in street heroin. This means that many prescription painkillers are being used as legal substitutes for heroin. The American Society of Addiction Medicine estimates that around 23 percent of heroin users develop addictions to pain medication. With over 250 million prescriptions for pain medication being written each year, there are plenty of pills for addicts to get their hands on.
Can You Sue Your Doctor?
Few things in a medical malpractice situation are clear-cut, but there are some situations involving pain medication that are easier to dissect than others. If a patient had beaten a heroin addiction in the past and their doctor prescribes opioids after a surgery, then there is a strong chance that doctor is negligent.
However, proving addiction in other medical cases is not easy. An attorney will need to see a client’s complete medical records and consult with other medical experts to see if the prescribing doctor was negligent for their actions. A case of medical malpractice involving opioid addiction would be a very difficult case for the patient to prove unless the circumstances were very unusual.
If you feel like your opioid addiction was the result of negligence on your doctor’s part, then you should contact an attorney immediately. However, you should also be prepared to contact a pain management and addiction specialist to show that you have the desire to get off of the prescription medication while taking care of your persistent pain at the same time.