Yes, you may qualify to sue your doctor for over-prescribing opioids. To successfully recover damages from your doctor, you must establish that the doctor was negligent in prescribing your opioids and you suffered harm and damages as a result.
Examples of Negligent Prescription of Opioids
Prescribing opioids in too great a quantity or dose may constitute over-prescription of opioids. Also, prescribing opioids to a patient with a known history of opioid or substance abuse may, in some cases, constitute negligence too.
Prescribing Too Great a Quantity of Opioids
Noting that long-term opioid abuse often starts with treatment for acute pain, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that clinicians prescribe the lowest quantity of the drug necessary when treating acute pain. In most cases, three days or fewer are necessary; rarely are seven days of opioids needed for acute pain.
The CDC also suggests that clinicians evaluate the benefits and harms of opioid therapy within one to four weeks of starting chronic pain treatment, or whenever escalating a patient’s dose.
Prescribing Too High a Dose of Opioids
The CDC also recommends prescribing as low a dose as possible to treat a patient’s acute pain. The CDC makes the same recommendation to evaluate benefits and harm within one to four weeks of starting chronic pain therapy or escalating dosage.
Prescribing Opioids to a Person with a History of Abuse
Further, “over-prescription” might adeptly refer to prescribing any amount of opioids to a person with a history of substance abuse, or failing to monitor such a patient’s opioid therapy carefully.
The CDC’s guidelines make clear that clinicians should review the patient’s history of controlled substance prescriptions and use urine drug testing to monitor prescribed medications when prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
Negligently Prescribing Opioids and Benzodiazepines Concurrently
The CDC further recommends that clinicians avoid prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines concurrently whenever possible. A doctor who prescribes both drugs concurrently without carefully weighing the benefits and harms may be negligent and liable for damages resulting from the prescription.
Proving a Medical Malpractice Case for Over-Prescribing Opioids
Any medical malpractice case must establish these things:
Duty of Care
Your case must prove the doctor owed you a duty of care. Generally, doctors owe their patients a duty of care. So, if a doctor prescribed you opioids, the doctor-patient relationship likely establishes duty of care.
Standard of Care Violation
Doctors must adhere to an acceptable standard of care. That is essentially an obligation to provide care in a manner consistent with how other physicians would provide care. The prevailing standard of care may depend on the circumstances of the case and other factors, so opinion and testimony from a medical expert are likely necessary to establish this part of your case.
The expert opinion can help establish that the defendant was negligent in over-prescribing medication in violation of the prevailing standard of care given the unique circumstances of your case.
A medical malpractice case must also draw a connection between the defendant’s standard of care violation and your injuries or harm. For example, if the doctor negligently over-prescribed opioids and you suffered a brain injury from an opioid overdose, you may have grounds for a case.
Finally, your medical malpractice case must prove that you suffered damages as a result of your opioids-related injuries. Examples of damages that are recoverable may include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
What to Do If You Suffered Injuries from Over-Prescription of Opioids
First, seek medical care for health-related complications, and always seek emergency care if you or a loved one experiences symptoms of overdose. Overdose carries the risk of brain damage due to the effects on the central nervous system.
If prescription negligence – including over-prescription or prescription mismanagement – caused or contributed to your injuries, speak with Newsome Melton about your case. Call 888-808-5977 to get legal help in your area.