Can You Sue Doctors for Over-Prescribing Pain Management Medication?
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the opioid crisis was one of the most widely discussed public health issues facing America. According to the HHS, two out of three drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid and in 2019, about 9.7 million people misused prescription painkillers. But just because COVID has taken over the news, that doesn’t mean the opioid crisis is done and over with.
Pain medication can be beneficial in some situations, but it needs to be prescribed with much caution. Before prescribing any medication, doctors need to consider several different factors to decide if it’s appropriate for their patient, especially when the medication can be as highly addictive as opioids. If a doctor neglects to show proper caution in prescribing opioids, leading to a patient becoming addicted, they could be liable for damages in a medical malpractice case.
In some cases, there have been doctors who prescribed opioid painkillers to patients who didn’t really need them in the first place. Depending on the patient’s situation, there may have been another, less-addictive pain medication that could have been prescribed instead. If a patient is dealing with long-term pain isn’t being alleviated with opioid painkillers, it could also be considered negligence if the patient’s doctor doesn’t refer them to a pain specialist who could work with the patient to transition to non-narcotic medications when it became clear that the opioids weren’t helping.
Another thing doctors need to think about is whether or not they’re prescribing the right amount of an opioid. For example, opioid painkillers are commonly prescribed to help with a short-term need, like pain after surgery. If a patient should expect to only need painkillers for a few days, the doctor should only prescribe a small amount of the drug. If a doctor were to prescribe a month’s worth of pills to a patient who should only need them for a few days, it could increase the chances of the patient becoming addicted. They also need to consider whether or not the opioid dosage would be too strong for the patient’s needs.
When you’re dealing with addictive medication like opioids, doctors also need to consider whether or not the patient has a prior history of addiction and drug overdoses or if they have risk factors that put them at an increased risk for opioid addiction. According to the Mayo Clinic, some known risk factors for opioid addiction include:
Family or personal history of substance abuse
History of severe depression or anxiety
Risk-taking or thrill-seeking behavior
Regular contact with high-risk people or high-risk environments
Contact a Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The effects of opioid addiction can be absolutely devastating. If you or a loved one became addicted to opioid painkillers that were improperly prescribed, it’s important to talk to a medical malpractice lawyer to learn about your legal options. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re experienced in handling a wide range of medical malpractice cases, including cases that involve mistakes with medication and prescriptions. Contact us today to get started.
Image: iStock / Kubra Cavus