Doctors Who Ignore Dangers When Prescribing Opioids

There is a plan to address the nation’s deadly opioid crisis.  However, it appears that a significant number of medical professionals are not adhering to the plan, exposing patients to serious, even fatal medication errors.

In March 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a guideline for family physicians and internists prescribing opioids to patients suffering from chronic pain.  In recent years, opioid abuse has skyrocketed.  Citing over 42,000 U.S. deaths in 2016 due to opioid overdoses, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency due to these painkillers last year.

Given that we’re now two years into the CDC’s plan to prevent opioid abuse and prescription errors, a new study examines how well physicians are adhering to it.

Plan to Combat Opioid Prescription Abuse

A health insurance lobbying group known as America’s Health Insurance Plans analyzed health insurance claims as they relate to six of the 12 recommendations for combatting opioid abuse included in the CDC guidelines.

The research concluded that doctors were following five of the six recommendations at an alarmingly low rate.

Exceeding Safe Opioid Prescription Limits

A chief area of concern is the opioid dosage prescribed by physicians.  Per the CDC guidelines, daily painkiller amounts should not go above 90 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) for certain types of commonly prescribed opioids.  These include hydrocodone and oxycodone.

This new survey found 10 percent of opioid prescriptions exceeded this daily standard.

The CDC says that higher doses of opioids are not shown to effectively reduce pain in the long term, but they do increase the chances for patient addiction. In fact, according to the CDC, dosages above 50 MME doubles the risk for opioid addiction.

The CDC recommends that opioid prescriptions be no longer than seven days.  Fifteen percent of the painkiller prescriptions included in this survey went beyond the seven-day threshold.

The CDC guidelines include monitoring for patients prescribed opioids, stating that physicians should follow up with a patient within one to four weeks. However, more than half of the patients in this survey were not scheduled a follow-up doctor visit within 30 days of their prescription.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are pursued when a standard level of care is not provided and patients suffer.  In the case of opioid abuse suffering, a care plan is in place but a good number of doctors apparently are not following it.

If you were seriously injured or had a family member die from what you believe was a mistake made during medical treatment, contact an attorney who represents victims of serious medical errors.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog May 17, 2018