Drug overdoses, particularly from prescription painkillers, now kill as many as 46 people each day in the country due to the opioid epidemic, according to recent figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials are desperately trying to control the nationwide crisis as numerous questions are raised, such as how did this epidemic occur, who is responsible and what are the legal rights of opioids victims and their loved ones.
“Fewer Americans are dying young from preventable causes of death,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Tragically, deaths from overdose are increasing because of the opioid epidemic.”
The opioid victims range from innocent patients prescribed these powerful painkillers for relief from diseases, chronic pain, automobile accidents, sports injuries, military wounds and trauma to those who foolishly embrace the drugs for recreational use.
The painkiller crisis has become so acute that several local and state governments and a significant, growing number of opioid victims and their loved ones are taking legal actions against doctors, pharmacists and the huge medical companies that produce these powerful drugs.
Organizations such as Injuryhelpdesk.com are providing references to a nationwide network of attorneys who specialize in such cases and have successfully filed lawsuits on claims that these defendants caused or contributed to their addictions to prescription painkillers.
An Injuryhelpdesk.com spokesperson said that many victims of opioid abuse are not aware of possible legal options that may be available to them and the fact that free legal consultations can be arranged.
WHAT ARE OPIOIDS?
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.
On Sept. 18, 2017, Dr. Frieden and the FDA issued a warning about the opioid epidemic and the steps the agency is taking “to stem the tide of opioid misuse and abuse.” Here is part of that public notification:
“America is awash in immediate-release (IR) opioids. About 90 percent of all opioid pain medications prescribed – or 160 million prescriptions a year – are for IR formulations like hydrocodone and acetaminophen or oxycodone and acetaminophen combinations. Many people who are currently addicted to opioids became medically addicted. Their first exposure to opioids was from a legal prescription, and for many, that prescription was written for an IR formulation of these drugs. Many addicted patients may then move on to higher dose formulations or more accessible illegal street drugs.”
Opioids are listed as among “Drugs That Are Most Likely to Land Patients in the Emergency Room,” according to a recent warning from Worst Pills, Best Pills, a nationally recognized non-profit consumer advocacy organization.
The organization said that landmark research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimated that 2.2 million people who were hospitalized in the U.S. in a selected one-year period “had suffered serious adverse drug reactions, of which more than 100,000 were fatal.
The JAMA study researchers “reported that 70 percent of these serious adverse drug reactions preceded the patients’ hospitalizations — and therefore resulted from use of outpatient medications.”
“An important new study published in JAMA in November 2016 shows that adverse events caused by outpatient drugs are leading more older adults in the U.S. to seek care in emergency rooms (ERs) and to be hospitalized. The study also identified the outpatient medications that are most likely to prompt trips to the ER,” the consumer group reported.
Among the drugs listed were opioid analgesics, in which patients’ symptoms included mental status changes, loss of consciousness, breathing problems, dizziness, fainting, balance problems, gastrointestinal issues, urination problems and allergic reactions.
One group of Americans particularly vulnerable to the opioid epidemic is the large number of military veterans who are included in the statistics compiled in a recent Newsweek magazine focus on the crisis.
“Opioids, mostly illegally obtained counterfeit pills and heroin, now account for 63 percent of all drug deaths in the U.S., with fatalities climbing at an astounding rate of nearly 20 percent a year. In fact, the estimated number of drug deaths in 2016 topped the total number of soldiers killed in the Iraq and Vietnam wars” — Newsweek magazine 10/12/17
The magazine article goes on to document how these powerful and dangerous drugs were overprescribed for those who served our country through military service, generating a serious backlash in weaning the veterans off the addictive painkillers:
“There’s a grim irony in that statistic, because the Department of Veterans Affairs has played a little-discussed role in fueling the opioid epidemic that is killing civilians and veterans alike. In 2011, veterans were twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses as non-veterans. One reason, as an exhaustive Newsweek investigation—based on this reporter’s book, Mental Health, Inc.—found, is that for over a decade, the VA recklessly overprescribed opiates and psychiatric medications. Since mid-2012, though, it has swung dangerously in the other direction, ordering a drastic cutback of opioids for chronic pain patients, but it is bungling that program and again putting veterans at risk.”
Many veterans are not aware that their military service does not preclude them from pursuing their legal options over health problems caused by treatment with opioids.
Organizations such as Injuryhelpdesk.com are available to provide veterans references to a nationwide network of attorneys who specialize in such cases and have successfully filed lawsuits over opioids treatment.