In a 2017 study by Coverys, a national medical malpractice insurance carrier, the company reached some interesting conclusions about the connection between increased opioid use and medical malpractice claims.
The company studied as many as 10,000 closed medical malpractice claims between 2012 and 2016 and found that opioids accounted for the highest percentage of medication-related claims. Only about 5% of all medications prescribed are opioids, but opioids accounted for 24 percent of all malpractice claims involving medication errors or overdoses. Therefore, it seems opioids create a disproportionate chance of malpractice claims, according to the research. Nearly half of the malpractice claims linked to opioids involved primary care doctors and family medicine physicians.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that as many as 64,000 Americans died in 2016 due to drug overdoses.
What is a Prescription Opioid?
Texas medical malpractice lawyers often review cases of medication errors and hear horror stories about doctors prescribing too much of a medicine or the wrong medicine. Doctors may prescribe opioids to treat acute or chronic pain. But opioids can have dangerous side effects. As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains, opioids are a pharmaceutical compound made from opium.
There are a number of prescription medications that fall into the opioid class, including:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
Why Do People Take Opioids?
Synthetic opioids - drugs manufactured from opium - are prescribed to manage and relieve pain. These opioid painkillers are often extremely effective at reducing pain, even in severe cases. Common uses are:
- Chronic back pain
- Post-surgical pain
- Chronic pain
However, opioids are highly addictive. In some cases, synthetic opioid drugs can be 2 to 3 times more addictive than heroin. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claims that 80 percent of all heroin users report abusing prescription opioids before trying heroin. The reason for this is that people use the drugs for pain relief, but in time, they require more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects. Eventually, an addicted individual turns to other methods of increasing the effects, such as mixing drugs or alternating methods of absorption.
How to Tell if You Have a Claim for Injuries
Typically, a person is responsible for his or her own actions. However, patients also reasonably rely on their physicians to make educated and informed choices about what medications are medically necessary and helpful. A doctor must make proper documentation of the need for opioids for pain management. If a doctor prescribes a medication without properly reviewing the medicines you are already taking, it could result in an adverse side effect or death. A third of medication errors are related to inadequate monitoring of a patient's medication regimen, according to the Coverys' study. Overdoses are common as well.
If you believe you or someone you love has been injured due to a medication error or a doctor's failure to monitor a medication, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Thousands of Americans die from opioid abuse each year. If a doctor is responsible for the injuries, your family should not suffer and be stuck with the medical expenses, lost income, or other losses associated with the injury.
Call an Austin Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
The attorneys of Byrd, Davis, Alden & Henrichson, LLP have decades of experience helping injured victims of malpractice. As the oldest personal injury firm in Austin, we are devoted to fighting for the rights of those who are injured. But don't wait too long. There are strict limits on the time you have to seek compensation for injuries. If you wait too long, you will forever lose your right to bring a drug injury case. Contact our firm today to learn more about your options and how we can help.