Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers: The Role of Doctors in the Opioid Epidemic

The recent death of pop icon Prince is yet another unfortunate example of how opioid painkillers can be extremely dangerous when abused or overprescribed. While it was an accidental overdose of the powerful opioid fentanyl that caused Prince’s death, all opioids can be extremely dangerous if abused, causing a range of risks including death by respiratory depression. Recently, certain states began to monitor doctors’ opioid prescribing habits in an effort to control this growing epidemic.

The prescription-monitoring program has had a positive impact on controlling the epidemic; however, researchers are not entirely clear about the cause. What remains unclear is whether doctors are prescribing fewer opioids because the program has helped raise awareness about the potential for abuse and addiction, or if the motivation stems from the fact that doctors know that their prescribing habits are being closely watched.

According to researchers from the journal Health Affairs, the states that closely monitored doctors’ opioid pain prescription habits saw a 30 percent reduction in the rate of prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances. Researchers say that there was a reduction in the number of prescriptions almost immediately following the program’s launch, and this trend continued into the third year after the start of the program.

Researchers from Stanford University reveal that the biggest prescribers of opioid painkillers are primary physicians, not pain specialists. According to the CDC, physicians who overprescribe these dangerously addictive medications are big part of the problem. Prior to the implementation of the prescription drug monitoring program, approximately 5.5 percent of patients who saw a physician for pain were given a prescription for a Schedule II opioid, which includes drugs like Vicodin, oxycodone, fentanyl, Adderall, and Ritalin. After the program was in place, there was a 30 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions.

Doctors Urged to Consider Other Options

Reducing the number of prescriptions does not necessarily address the issue fully. Researchers say that they do not have information about whether or not the drugs were appropriately prescribed, so they could not evaluate whether patients’ pain was being adequately managed, and if anything changed as a result of the drug-monitoring program. However, considering the fact that there are currently enough opioids to medicate every adult in the United States for a month, and the fact that there is no evidence to support the long-term use of these drugs for chronic pain, it is likely that doctors will change their approach to pain management.

Last month, the CDC issued new guidelines to urge doctors to think twice about prescribing opiates for pain, and consider other alternatives as a first line of therapy. If an opioid drug is clearly the best choice, the lowest possible dose should be prescribed first.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Physician Negligence

If your physician has prescribed an opioid painkiller without warning you of the risks associated with these highly addictive medications, contact Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We provide highly skilled, knowledgeable legal counsel, and will seek the maximum financial compensation for pain and suffering. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.