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Opioid Crisis: Is America in Trouble?

Brandon Evans   |  January 17, 2018   |  

opioids

Are we facing a national medical crisis in our country and North Carolina at the hands of painkiller drugs?  Many experts and government officials think we are in the middle of an opioid crisis.

What are painkillers and are they dangerous?  How is our government helping? Are there any current lawsuits regarding opioids? How can doctors and the general public help?

What are Painkillers and are They Dangerous? 

Painkillers are a class of drugs manufactured and designed to kill pain after surgery or injury.  They are very successful at alleviating and reducing pain and are prescribed by medical doctors usually after surgery or serious injury. They do what they are designed to do and that is kill the pain.

The class of drugs is called Opioids and they include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • And others

Common Opioid brand names include:

  • Percocet
  • OxyContin
  • Demerol
  • Vicodin
  • Tylox
  • Palladone
  • Percodan
  • And others

If you have had surgery in the past your doctor has most likely prescribed one or more of these opioids for you following surgery with instructions to take it for a few to several days.  They were most likely very successful in alleviating your pain.

Painkillers are dangerous if the patient taking the painkiller becomes addicted to the drug.  If the patient becomes addicted to the painkiller then he or she may turn to other illegal drugs such as “heroin” as the addiction escalates and doctors won’t prescribe the legal painkillers anymore. Sales of the prescription opioids rose approximately four times since the late 1990s according to the US Centers for Disease Control.  As a result, the addictions to opioids and the health consequences, including fatal overdoses, also increased at an alarming rate.  Addicts incur medical expenses that don’t get paid and miss work, which combine to impose economic harm on our cities, counties and health insurance industries.

Current Lawsuits Filed and Government Relations

In 2017, the first lawsuit was filed against drug distributors in McDowell County, West Virginia, which suffers some of the highest overdose rates in the US.  Recently, the Attorney General in Kentucky hired a law firm to sue opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers in that state.  Even more recently Josh Stein, the Attorney General for North Carolina, announced that North Carolina is suing drug manufacturer Insys Therapeutics, alleging deception, fraud and illegal kickbacks. The suit alleges that the drug made the opioid crisis worse in some cities in North Carolina, including our largest city, Charlotte.  In addition, legislatures have enacted laws to impose liability and sanctions against those who abuse prescribing or dispensing opiods.

What Can Doctors Do? 

Doctors and other medical providers can limit the number of prescriptions for opioids and the amount of medication prescribed per patient.  They can also follow up more carefully on patients who are taking opioids to check for and stop addictions at the first sign of symptoms.  In addition, those who prescribe opioids are under new standards and requirements to properly document, prescribe and dispense these painkillers.  The medical practitioners and pharmacies that fail to comply with these standards could face sanctions, loss of license, or lawsuits under state or federal laws.

What Can We Do to Fight This Opioid Crisis? Can Individuals Who Suffered Addition File a Lawsuit? 

As patients and members of the general public we can remain vigilant of the dangers imposed by the opioid class of drugs.  We should cautiously observe family members who are prescribed pain killers and be quick to get help at the first sign of an addictive symptom.  Getting immediate help is the key to prevention and we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Currently, most lawsuits are being filed by governmental entities such as counties and cities against the manufacturers, dispensers and retailers of opioids.  There are potential claims for individuals suffering from addiction that are being investigated but as of now no suits have yet been filed in North Carolina or adjacent states on behalf of individuals.  Riddle and Brantley will continue to monitor this issue and if claims are being filed by individuals or their relatives, we will advise.

At Riddle and Brantley, we believe that justice counts for all those harmed or injured by opioids or painkillers. We believe that justice counts for the cities and counties in North Carolina who have suffered economic damage as a result of this opioid crisis.  If you have questions concerning a potential claim against a manufacturer, distributor or retailer of opioids, please email us or call us at 800-525-7111.  We are here and ready to help in any way that we can.  If we don’t know the answer we will do our best to refer you to another resource or law firm that can answer your question or provide the help you need.