Opioid analgesics are an effective pain management medication that physicians use to treat moderate to severe pain in patients who may not respond well to other medications, including over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Unfortunately, they are also responsible for more medical malpractice claims associated with drug errors than any other class of drug. According to a study by Coverys, a medical liability insurer, 24 percent of medication-related malpractice claims involved opioid analgesics. Anticoagulants were ranked second on the list of medication-related claims, at only 14 percent.
Opioids are known to be highly addictive, and physicians too often refill prescriptions without examining a patient to determine whether their condition is improving and if the prescription-strength opioid is necessary. If a patient continues to experience severe pain, it may indicate a change in their clinical status. Masking the pain with opioids is not necessarily the best treatment option. According to Robert Hanscom, Vice President of Business Analytics at Coverys, in the 10,000-closed malpractice claims that were studied between 2012 and 2016, 15 percent of physicians allegedly demonstrated poor judgement by prescribing an opioid. Oftentimes, physicians gave in to desperate patients who persuaded them to write a prescription.
Electronic Health Records May Reduce Medication Errors
Medication-related errors rank fourth in top causes of medical claims at eight percent, following medical mismanagement at 14 percent, surgical and procedural errors at 24 percent, and diagnostic errors at 32 percent. As electronic health records become widely used, Hanscom believes it will help significantly reduce the issue of medication errors, including those involving opioid medications. While he is surprised that there has not been more progress with eliminating medication errors, Hanscom believes that the slow progress is likely due to the shift of patient care from hospitals to ambulatory settings.
Outpatient settings tend to be less computerized and overcrowded. Physicians have packed schedules with a limited amount of time to spend with each patient. Unfortunately, this can lead to prescribing errors. Spending 30 minutes or more with patients to discuss their health history, specific concerns, and potential treatment options is becoming a thing of the past, which is having a serious impact on prescription errors.
The opioid epidemic in this country continues to destroy families and communities across the country. In fact, opioid overdoses are the leading cause of fatality for people in the United States under the age of 50. Physicians have a responsibility to prescribe these powerful drugs only when it is necessary, and to closely monitor the patient’s status to prevent the patient from becoming addicted or overdosing.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Protect Victims of Medical Negligence
If you or a loved one has been become addicted to an opioid pain analgesic due to a medication error or overprescribing physician, it is in your best interest to contact the experienced and compassionate Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We will examine the details of your case and determine whether your physician was responsible for mismanaging your pain medication. To schedule a free, confidential 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 medical malpractice victims in 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, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.