Two new studies published by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine have found that improper prescribing practices on the part of doctors and hospitals may be putting patients at risk of dependency and other complications from opioid painkillers. According to the reports, these “suboptimal” practices increase the risk of dependency for patients who are prescribed opioids, which could increase their risk of addiction or overdose.
Researchers in one of the two studies found that 15% of patients who had not used opioid medications within the last two months were prescribed opioids upon being discharged from the hospital. The second JAMA study found that patients were often not properly educated about the proper use of opioid painkillers when they were issued a prescription. The study also cited problems with the sharing, storage, and disposal of opioid medications.
While opioid painkiller prescriptions may be necessary for some hospital patients to manage pain after being discharged from the hospital, this practice can also increase the risk of opioid dependency. This in turn puts patients at an increased risk of addiction or overdose. The CDC has reported that deaths due to opioid overdoses have more than tripled over the last 15 years, thanks in part to the increased frequency with which opioid medications are prescribed in the U.S.
The increase in fatal opioid overdoses in the U.S. has occurred due in part to the aggressive marketing of these drugs by the pharmaceutical industry. Another reason for this increase is the growing willingness of doctors to prescribe opioid painkillers to manage patients with pain. Under an initiative known as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), hospitals were encouraged to ask patients about their satisfactions with how their pain was managed by staff. Researchers are currently evaluating whether HCAHPS may have encouraged doctors and hospitals to prescribe opioid painkillers to their patients more often than necessary.
In the second JAMA study, researchers found that hospitals with a high HCAHPS patient satisfaction score were more likely to prescribe opioid painkillers to their patients. Hospitals with more registered nurses per hospital bed were more likely to prescribe opioids, whereas facilities with more resident physicians per bed were less likely to prescribe these medications. Hospitals located in rural areas and those with government or system affiliations were also more likely to prescribe opioids.
When a loved one has been the victim of overdose caused by opioid painkillers, 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 the victim of an overdose or other serious complications caused by opioid overprescription, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against 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 been the victim of complications caused by opioid painkiller prescriptions. Our law firm has handled more cases involving the fentanyl pain patch—a powerful opioid painkiller that is about 80-100 times more powerful than morphine—than all other law firms in the country combined.
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.