In recent years, victims of prescription opioid addiction are questioning their rights as patients. Many are starting to ask questions like, “can I sue my doctor for over-prescribing opioids?” “Are doctors liable for patients opioid abuse?”
These individuals aren’t alone. A court in West Virginia allowed what the media called “addiction lawsuits” by letting addicts sue doctors and pharmacies. Since then, courts have seen countless attempts to file lawsuits against doctors over-prescribing addictive medications.
But, is it possible to rule these cases of opioid addictions as a medical malpractice case? Can the millions of Americans struggling with addiction after their doctor prescribed addictive pain medication have a legal case?
The Rise of Addiction Court Cases
In states everywhere, people have sued drug companies for advertising prescription opioids while hiding how addictive they are. Last year, Purdue, the makers of Oxycontin, offered billions of dollars to families of patients who became addicted or died from overdoses.
In another case in Ohio, one doctor charged with murder for the deaths of 25 patients. This case alleges that the doctor over-prescribed pain meds, leading directly to the people’s deaths under his care. In turn, the doctor sued the hospital that made these charges.
Some pharmaceutical companies are suing doctors for overprescribing because they got sued for filling opiate prescriptions. Addiction lawsuits are a tangled web of blame, criminal charges, large cash settlements, and career losses. But at the heart of this are families seeking some form of justice for their lost loved ones.
Can You Sue a Doctor for Over-Prescribing?
In essence, yes. There are various occasions when you could sue your doctor for over-prescribing opioids. If you’re someone with a history of addiction, prescribing addictive painkillers can constitute negligence. Other reasons that might give you a valid case include prescribing:
- An excessive quantity of opioids: the CDC suggests that doctors prescribe the lowest quantity of the drug necessary, often no more than three days.
- Higher doses: the CDC also recommends prescribing the lowest dose possible to treat someone’s pain and look at alternative treatment options within one to four weeks if there’s no improvement.
- Prescribing to someone with a history of abuse: this might seem like a no-brainer, but over-prescription is relatively common among those with a history of substance abuse.
- Negligently prescribing opioids: the CDC recommends not opioids and benzodiazepines concurrently whenever possible.
Who Can Help?
If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of a doctor over-prescribing opioids, you might have a case against them in your hand. Consider speaking to a medical malpractice attorney who can guide you on introducing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Prescription medications have lasting side effects that doctors often don’t disclose with patients. An attorney can help you figure out if you have a solid product liability case, a personal injury case, or medical malpractice.
What Do Addiction Lawsuits Mean for the Opiate Epidemic?
On the one hand, these cases might compensate some families for their loss. Although no amount of money can make up for the tragedy of losing someone to addiction, settlements could help some families rebuild. After all, addiction often leads to high medical bills and legal bills.
These settlements could be a start for some still suffering the financial costs of addiction. Additionally, these lawsuits also send a clear message: we will no longer tolerate unethical prescribing. As a society, these cases say that we are no longer willing to allow someone to make a quick buck off of suffering addicts.
However, there could be some adverse effects. For example, doctors who are afraid of getting sued could stop prescribing certain medications, even when they are medically necessary. This fear could result in chronic pain patients getting no relief, or doctors treating patients based on suspicion of being sued rather than their medical opinion.
One thing is for sure. If addiction lawsuits and the ability to sue a doctor for overprescribing medication can reduce the number of overdoses in the country, that’s a positive step in the right direction.