Unlawful and Negligent Prescribing Leads to Prescription Painkiller Deaths
8 Feb 2015

Unlawful and Negligent Prescribing Leads to Prescription Painkiller Deaths

Last August, a doctor was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for running “pill mills” in Brunswick and Jesup, Georgia. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the doctor “would issue prescriptions to virtually anyone who was willing to pay him $350 fee for a prescription” and wrote prescriptions for powerful painkillers “to thousands of people from all over the Eastern United States, from Maine to Florida, for no legitimate medical purpose.”

46 Overdose Deaths Every Day

Sadly, such stories are not uncommon, as both drug dealers and drug addicts seek out prescription painkillers and other drugs and find unscrupulous pharmacists and physicians who see an opportunity to make money. Unfortunately, such conduct has deadly consequences. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, 46 Americans die every day after overdosing on prescription painkillers. CDC statistics also indicate that drug overdose death rates for all drug types have more than tripled since 1990, with the majority of these fatalities caused by prescription drugs. In fact, over half of the 41,340 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2011 were associated with prescription drugs.

The extremely high rate of deaths associated with prescription painkillers has led to strict regulations that require doctors to follow specific procedures before prescribing these powerful painkillers to their patients. Practitioners who fail to follow these procedures can face both civil liability and, as with the now-incarcerated Brunswick doctor, severe criminal penalties.

Required Guidelines

The CDC’s guidelines require physicians to observe the following precautions:

  • Instruct patients on the proper dosage, use, and storage of their medication
  • Ask patients questions about any history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • Reduce the quantity of pills per prescription
  • Limit the number of refills per prescription
  • When appropriate, prescribe alternate therapies, such as physical therapy and exercise

Additionally, a majority of states, including Georgia, have enacted prescription drug monitoring programs designed to decrease painkiller abuse and keep a careful watch on “pain clinics” or “pill mills” known for overprescribing. The CDC reports that the amount of painkiller prescriptions has declined in several states with drug monitoring programs. In New York, for example, the state saw a 75 percent drop in patients who saw multiple prescribers for the same drugs one year after lawmakers enacted a prescription drug monitoring program. Georgia’s program was created in 2013 and features an electronic database of prescribing, dispensing, and use information for a variety of controlled substances.

Even if you have a legitimate prescription from your doctor, it is important that he or she follow the CDC’s guidelines and other appropriate standards of care when issuing prescriptions. As a licensed pharmacist as well as an attorney, I know all too well the serious consequences that can follow pharmaceutical negligence and assist clients who may have claims for compensation arising out of such conduct.

Alan Welch: Attorney. Pharmacist. Brunswick’s Pharmaceutical Negligence Lawyer

Most law firms rely on outside health care experts, such as nurses or emergency medical technicians, to review potential medical-related legal claims. It is relatively rare for an attorney to possess the medical and scientific background necessary to examine medical records to determine whether a client has an actionable claim. As a pharmacist, I bring years of medical experience to the practice of law. Because I have an in-depth understanding of these issues, I help my clients understand how medicine and the law intersect. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medical professional’s negligence, contact me today at (912) 265-9811 to discuss your case.

This website has been prepared by J. Alan Welch Law for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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