A Missouri medical malpractice jury awarded the plaintiffs $17.6 million on June 27, 2017 after a seven-day trial in a medical malpractice case against the plaintiff’s former primary care physician who was alleged to have prescribed ever-increasing amounts of opioids for the plaintiff’s back pain that ended up destroying his life and his family.
The Missouri medical malpractice jury awarded the plaintiff $1.4 million in compensatory damages and $1.2 million to his wife. The Missouri medical malpractice jury then awarded an additional $15 million in punitive damages.
The 45-year-old mechanical maintenance worker had gone to his primary care physician seeking treatment for his back pain in 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, the primary care physician prescribed over 37,000 pain pills in ever-increasing dosages. At one point, the plaintiff was taking three prescribed narcotic medications at the same time: Oxycontin, Vicodin, and oxycodone.
Evidence produced during the Missouri medical malpractice trial showed that the plaintiff’s average daily dose of morphine-equivalent milligrams of opioid medication rose from 49 per day in 2008 to 1,555 per day in 2012. The CDC’s guidelines call for no more than 100 milligrams per day.
The plaintiff and his wife are going through a divorce despite their efforts to mend their relationship and the plaintiff’s relationship with his daughter.
The Opioid Epidemic
The 1999–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 14.6% of adults have current widespread or localized pain lasting at least 3 months, and an analysis of data from the 2012 National Health Interview Study showed that 11.2% of adults report having daily pain.
According to the CDC, an estimated 20% of patients presenting to physician offices with noncancer pain symptoms or pain-related diagnoses (including acute and chronic pain) receive an opioid prescription. In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills.
Opioid prescriptions per capita increased 7.3% from 2007 to 2012, with opioid prescribing rates increasing more for family practice, general practice, and internal medicine compared with other specialties. Rates of opioid prescribing vary greatly across states in ways that cannot be explained by the underlying health status of the population, highlighting the lack of consensus among clinicians on how to use opioid pain medication.
According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 persons died from overdose related to opioid pain medication in the United States (the majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid). Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have more than quadrupled since 1999.
From 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses (91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose). In the past decade, while the death rates for the top leading causes of death such as heart disease and cancer have decreased substantially, the death rate associated with opioid pain medication has increased markedly.
Overdoses from prescription opioids are a driving factor in the 15-year increase in opioid overdose deaths. Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.
The Drug Abuse Warning Network estimated that greater than 420,000 emergency department visits were related to the misuse or abuse of narcotic pain relievers in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) as a result of a prescription drug in the United States, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a drug claim lawyer in your state who may investigate your possible medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice attorneys in your state who may assist you with your drug claim.
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