Opioid use has become a crisis in the United States. Many cases of drug abuse result from prescriptions issued by physicians. A recent study conducted by Coverys, a medical liability insurance company, shows more medical malpractice cases linked to opioid drug errors than any other drug class. Coverys analyzed data from more than 10,000 malpractice claims filed between 2012 and 2016. While opioids made up a small percentage of the prescription drugs dispensed during that time, they were a factor in 24 percent of medication-related claims, a significantly higher percentage than any other drug class. Most of these cases involved an opioid overdose, but there were numerous cases whereby the patient became addicted to the painkillers after they were prescribed by a doctor.
Physicians Overprescribing Opioids
More than one-third of the plaintiffs in these cases claimed that physicians had acted irresponsibly during the follow-up to their prescription, renewing opioid prescriptions without properly monitoring patients to determine whether they were necessary. Patients who were still in significant pain continued to have their prescriptions renewed, even though the drugs were not helping them improve. Additionally, 15 percent of malpractice claims involving opioids alleged that the physician acted inappropriately prescribing opioids. This often refers to doctors who prescribed opioids at the request of patients who did not need them. A doctor should never act against a patient’s interests, especially when it comes to dangerous drugs.
Medication Errors More Frequent Than Expected
Of the cases analyzed in the study, medication errors and liability accounted for approximately eight percent of the medical malpractice claims. Although this percentage has decreased from where it was 15 years ago, researchers were surprised that it remained as high as it did. The most common citation was diagnostic error, accounting for 32 percent of the claims. Surgical and procedural errors were next, at 24 percent, followed by medical mismanagement at 14 percent.
According to researchers, there were several factors that could contribute to the high number of medication errors. Electronic health records should have been a promising development for improving prescription accuracy, but they have not seen the progress they were hoping for. This could be because many procedures are now done in ambulatory, outpatient settings, wherein electronic records are not as common, rather than in hospitals. The demanding schedules for physicians also mean that they spend less time with each patient, which can result in errors.
Opioid painkillers can be a great help to people recovering from injury, surgery, or who suffer from chronic pain. If they are not carefully dispensed and monitored, however, there can be serious and fatal consequences for patients. Opioids are highly addictive, and physicians who lack pain management training may put patients in danger by prescribing them incorrectly.
New Jersey Opioid Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP Advocate for Opioid Prescription Error VictimsIf you or a loved one has suffered due to a doctor overprescribing an opioid, call the medical malpractice lawyers in New Jersey at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP. Our experienced legal team will review the facts of your case to determine if medical negligence was a factor and fight for the compensation you deserve. With offices conveniently located in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the state. Call us today at 732-777-0100, or contact us online for a free consultation.