The former head of the Food and Drug Administration says that the dramatic increase in the prescription of opioid painkiller medications in recent decades is “one of the great mistakes of modern medicine.” Dr. David Kessler ran the FDA from 1990 through 1997, around the time that the current epidemic of opioid painkillers overprescription began.
Dr. Kessler says that in recent decades, doctors made it a priority to aggressively treat symptoms of pain in patients. This new emphasis on pain management coupled with the aggressive marketing of opioid medications by the pharmaceutical industry led to a drastic increase in the number of opioid drugs prescribed in the U.S.
Between 1999—two years after Dr. Kessler left office—and 2014, sales of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and others have quadrupled in the U.S. This rise in the number of opioid prescriptions has also led to an increase in the number of opioid overdoses caused by prescription painkillers, which also grew fourfold during the same period.
Dr. Kessler says that the marketing of opioids by the pharmaceutical industry has also played a key role in the opioid abuse epidemic in recent decades. He says that drug companies falsely promoted opioids as being non-addictive, making doctors more confident in aggressively prescribing these drugs. The widespread promotion of opioid medications that resulted has been extremely profitable for the drug industry. Sales of the opioid painkiller OxyContin have totaled $35 billion since the drug went on the market 21 years ago.
Some experts have tried to blame so-called “pill mills”—in which large numbers of pills are prescribed by just a few health professionals—for the flood of opioids that has contributed to the increased abuse and addiction to these drugs. However, Dr. Kessler says that about two-thirds of opioid prescriptions are written by doctors who prescribe these medications in normal doses—similar to the rate of opioid overprescription among other prescription drugs.
Despite the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths caused by the overprescription of these drugs, federal authorities have been slow to act to curb the number of prescription painkillers sold in the U.S. In April 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally issued guidelines for doctors regarding prescription painkillers. The CDC guidelines advised doctors to treat patients with over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen whenever possible before prescribing opioids. However, the CDC rules do not require doctors to follow the recommendations.
Dr. Kessler says that a societal shift will be necessary in order to reduce the rate at which opioid are prescribed in the U.S. He says that implementing the new CDC guidelines, halting the over-promotion of opioid medications by the pharmaceutical industry, and encouraging doctors to limit the prescription of opioids to only patients who cannot be treated with over-the-counter medications will all be necessary to reduce the number of cases of abuse, addiction, and overdose caused by prescription painkillers.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of an overdose or other serious complications caused by opioid overprescription, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against manufacturer of the drug, or the doctor or hospital that was responsible for your injuries. The first step in taking legal action is to talk with a law firm with the experience and knowledge to successfully handle your case from start to finish.
The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous individuals who have suffered overdose, addiction, or other complications from opioid painkiller prescriptions. Our law firm has handled more cases involving the fentanyl pain patch—a powerful painkiller about 80-100 times more powerful than morphine—than all other law firms in the country combined. Our firm has both the training and experience to prosecute medical malpractice cases involving a wide array of other serious opioid painkillers, including Vicodin, hydrocodone, OxyContin, oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, and other medications.
When a loved one has been the victim of overdose caused by opioid painkillers, the manufacturer of the drug—or the doctor or hospital who prescribed them—may be to blame. Sometimes doctors prescribe too many of these powerful painkillers, sometimes doctors prescribe these potent drugs in dosages that are too high, and sometimes doctors prescribe them with other drugs that can cause dangerous and even fatal drug interactions. The aggressive marketing of prescription painkillers by the pharmaceutical industry has also played a key role in the rise of opioid overdoses in the U.S.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by side effects from opioid painkiller medications, the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are ready to help. For more information about filing a lawsuit and to learn if you may be eligible to file a case, contact our law firm by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form located at the top of this page and answering a few simple questions to get started.