America’s opioid crisis has had a devastating impact on millions of families, as well as the communities forced to confront its far-reaching consequences. Today, opioid addiction has become a problem of epidemic proportions, with more than 90 Americans dying from opioid overdoses every day, and an annual economic burden that exceeds $75 billion, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year, the crisis was declared a national health emergency.
While the nation’s opioid crisis is not an easy problem to solve, increased awareness and advocacy efforts from families, lawmakers, and others across the nation are beginning to target some of its underlying factors. This includes the monstrous surge in the manufacturing, marketing, and prescribing of harmful and highly addictive opioid medications, which is being targeted through:
- Civil Lawsuits – Local governments have borne a tremendous burden in addressing many of the opioid crisis’ repercussions, including those related to addiction, law enforcement, health care, criminal justice, incarceration, and other publicly funded resources and programs. In a similar fashion to tobacco litigation several decades ago, states, counties, and cities across the nation are beginning to file federal civil lawsuits against the opioid industry in an attempt to hold them accountable for the damages they’ve caused.
- Medical Malpractice Lawsuits – While pharmaceutical companies play a large role in aggressively marketing harmful opioids, health care providers are also culpable for contributing to the crisis. In fact, there have been marked increases in the number of opioid-related medical malpractice lawsuits, including those involving negligent prescribing. Overprescribing and negligence harms individuals and families, and helps supply the illegal market with opioids.
OPIOID INDUSTRY & FEDERAL CIVIL LAWSUITS
Just as major tobacco companies were the target of litigation in the 1990s, powerful pharmaceutical corporations that produce, distribute, and market opioid medications have become the target of recent federal civil lawsuits from jurisdictions throughout the nation. These lawsuits focus on the opioid industry’s aggressive and unlawful marketing of drugs they knew to be harmful, which has succeeded in nearly quadrupling the number of prescriptions for opioids since 1999. That extreme spike in prescriptions is directly correlated to a rise in addiction, overdose, and death.
In addition to the impact on individuals and families, the opioid industry’s prioritization of profits over people has also resulted in considerable costs for local governments, which spend billions of dollars each year dealing with the issues it creates and working to improve economic and social welfare in their communities.
By filing federal lawsuits, local governments are looking to use the civil justice system as a vehicle for accountability and change. Civil lawsuits are intended to correct wrongdoing and make victims whole, and the outcome of this historic litigation could result not only in liability and major payouts, but also new laws, regulations, and deterrence that prevent corporations from profiting off the crisis it has created, and provide a solution to the underlying problem.
MALPRACTICE LAWSUITS AGAINST DOCTORS
Big Pharma and profit-driven corporations may be one of the largest driving forces behind America’s opioid epidemic, but they are surely not the only parties that have contributed to the problem. In an increasing number of medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors and other health care providers are also being targeted for the role they have played. In fact, a study from Coverys, a medical insurance provider, has shown opioid medications are now the focus of more drug-related malpractice lawsuits than any other drug. The study also noted the following:
- Although opioid medications account for just 5 percent of prescription drugs, they account for 25 percent of malpractice lawsuits involving drugs.
- Many of the malpractice lawsuits are filed by families over fatal drug overdoses and wrongful death, as well as by individuals who suffer from addiction.
- Over a third of malpractice lawsuits involving opioids allege that providers were negligent when following up with patients and often renewed prescriptions without properly evaluating patients.
Medical professionals have a legal duty to provide treatment that aligns with acceptable standards of their profession, including the duty to take reasonable measures in reducing risks posed by prescription medications. By violating requirements to review a patient’s medical history before prescribing, failing to properly evaluate patients, or being otherwise negligent in providing patients with harmful drugs, health care providers can potentially be held liable for resulting damages. An increase in drug-related medical malpractice lawsuits shows this is especially true when opioids are involved.
Hare Wynn has been advocating on behalf of clients who suffer preventable harms and losses for over a century, and is committed to helping those who wish to pursue justice through civil lawsuits, including medical malpractice claims involving doctor negligence and dangerous drugs and cases filed against powerful corporations. To discuss a potential case and learn more about how firm can be of assistance, call 855-965-1688 for a free consultation.
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