Most Americans have heard about the opioid crisis in our country. Opioids (or opiates) are a broad class of drugs that help control or relieve acute pain. Some common opiate painkillers include oxycodone (sold under the trade names OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin and Norco) and fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic). Some opioids are derived naturally from the poppy plant and others are synthesized in a laboratory.

When opioid medications travel through your blood and attach to opioid receptors in your brain cells, the cells release signals that dampen your perception of pain and increase your feelings of pleasure.

Doctors often prescribe opioids following surgery or an injury, or for health conditions such as cancer. The opioid drugs are quite potent and readily available, which means there is a risk that patients will become addicted to them and possibly overdose. It’s not negligent for these doctors to prescribe these drugs, but it is negligent to not monitor their use or over prescribe them.

Since the 1990’s there has been an alarming increase in the overuse, misuse/abuse, and overdose deaths attributed to opioids. Yes, there is some level of personal responsibility involved when taking any medication; however, we are going to focus on corporate greed and physicians wrongly prescribing or over prescribing the drugs that lead to these awful outcomes.

Pharmaceutical companies make more money if more people take the medications they produce. That makes sense. But what is concerning is that, according to an analysis from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and CNN, “Opioid manufacturers are paying U.S. doctors huge sums of money for speaking, consulting, and other services—and the more opioids a doctor prescribes, the more money he or she gets paid by those same manufacturers.”

With pharmaceutical companies and doctors looking to line their pockets, is the best interest of the patient at the forefront? Can drug-pushing doctors be liable for the deaths of their patients?

Recently, a Cook County jury decided yes, in a particular case. That jury awarded $6 million to the family of a woman who died due to an opioid addiction the family says was caused by her doctor.

A woman was under the care of a pain management physician for years for neck and back pain from a work-related accident. That physician prescribed her hydrocodone with refills nearly every month. The doctor also increased her prescription several times as she said she was feeling no change in her pain level.

The woman began to abuse the opioids and died of respiratory failure related to her opioid use.

The woman’s family stated that the doctor failed to warn her of the dangers of opioid medications and failed to wean her off them after the doctor knew that the meds were not working to relieve her pain.

The $6 million verdict sends a signal to pain management doctors to be more thoughtful about how they prescribe these drugs.

While every case is different, we are interested in helping families who have lost loved ones due to the failure of doctors in monitoring these opioids. If you know someone who has died from opioid use related to a doctor over-prescribing these powerful meds, please contact us at 312-346-5320. All calls are free and confidential and there is no fee unless the case is successful.