An increase in the prescription of opioid painkillers over the last two decades, fueled by the aggressive marketing of these drugs by the pharmaceutical industry, has played a key role in the decreased life expectancy of white, middle-aged Americans, the New York Times reports. This epidemic of opioid overprescription has led to a sharp rise in cases of addiction, overdose, and deaths caused by prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and similar drugs.
Mortality rates for white, middle-aged Americans increased between 1999 and 2013, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers attributed the increased mortality rate of middle-aged whites in the U.S. to a rise in drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, chronic liver diseases, and cirrhosis. This increased mortality rate was not observed in any other wealthy nation and reversed a decades-long trend of decreasing mortality rates in the U.S.
A key factor in this disturbing trend has been the increased use of prescription opioid painkillers by physicians to treat chronic, less-serious medical conditions like lower back pain, sciatica, and musculoskeletal problems. While drugs such as fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone have been shown to be effective for short-term use following surgery or for treating pain caused by terminal illnesses such as cancer, there has been little research regarding the safety or effectiveness of prescription painkillers for treating chronic pain conditions.
Over the last 20 years, doctors who do not specialize in pain management have been prescribing opioid painkillers to their patients with alarming frequency. Prescriptions for OxyContin and other prescription pain medications have risen tenfold over the last two decades. Increasingly, doctors who do not specialize in pain management—including general practitioners, internists, and primary care physicians—are prescribing powerful opioid drugs to patients that previously would have been treated with over-the-counter NSAID pain relievers like Tylenol or Motrin.
The effect of this dramatic rise in opioid painkiller prescriptions has been staggering. Opioid painkillers are reported in 39% of all emergency room visits for nonmedical drug use in the U.S. Because these medications are highly addictive, the use of opioids to treat chronic pain can increase a patient’s risk of dependency, addiction, overdose, and death. Research has shown that the use of opioid painkillers is associated with severe pain, poor health, unemployment, and greater health care costs compared to non-users.
Individuals who have suffered an overdose from prescription opioid painkillers may be eligible to file a lawsuit. The first step in taking legal action is to secure the assistance of an experienced attorney to guide you through the process of filing a case.
The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have successfully handled hundreds of cases involving fentanyl overdose deaths. Our firm has won millions in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients who died from an overdose of fentanyl or from a combined drug overdose caused by the interaction of fentanyl products with other CNS depressant medications. Our firm also has the experience and knowledge to handle cases on behalf of victims of overdoses involving hydromorphone, methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), and other opioid painkillers.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of side effects from opioid painkillers, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson to receive a free legal consultation regarding your case. You can contact us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out a free case evaluation form located at the top of this page.