Even when taken as prescribed by a doctor, patients who take opioid painkillers may be at risk of suffering an overdose. If left untreated, patients who have suffered a painkiller overdose may be at risk of lapsing into respiratory arrest.
Because opioids slow down the section of the brain that regulates breathing, one of the side effects of taking opioid painkillers is decreased breathing rate. In most cases, this side effect of painkillers is blocked because the pain these patients experience causes the body to resist the decreased breathing caused by the medication.
However, when the pain being experienced by opioid patients resolves, or when they are given long-acting painkillers that continue working after their pain has stopped, patients may develop respiratory depression—a decrease in the rate of breathing. Unless they are treated promptly, patients who develop respiratory depression from painkillers may fall into respiratory arrest and die.
Some cases of respiratory arrest associated with the use of opioid painkillers are caused when doctors or hospitals who are inexperienced in the administration of these drugs prescribe them at excessive doses or in long-acting medications that are given to patients with only short term pain. More than 15,000 patients die each year from respiratory arrest or other side effects brought about by an opioid painkiller overdose.
If you or a loved one were prescribed an opioid painkiller and suffered respiratory arrest or other side effects while using them as prescribed, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. For a free legal consultation, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out the free case evaluation form located on this page.