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Legal Liability for Prescription Opioid Addiction

Legal Liability for Prescription Opioid Addiction

The scourge of opioid addiction has become a nationwide problem. Although prescription opioids are effective treatments for pain, the Centers for Disease Control reports that as many as one in four patients who use opioids as part of a long-term strategy to manage pain become addicted. Addiction can lead to serious problems, including the risk of overdose and death. For people dealing with addiction to prescription opioids questions can arise about the possibility of filing civil lawsuits to recover compensation for expenses related to addiction, and in the worst cases, the wrongful death of a family member.

A prescribing doctor may be committing professional negligence

The “controlled but legal” nature of prescription opioids distinguishes them from banned opioids like heroin. Even an addict can continue to have a legitimate, legal prescription. But there can come a turning point when continued drug use poses a threat to a patient’s health and wellbeing. There are several potential defendants that might bear civil liability for an addict’s injury or death.

The first potential defendant who comes to mind is the prescribing doctor. A doctor may reasonably conclude that opioids are the best solution or a patient with a legitimate need for pain management. Under regulations of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a prescription for a controlled substance like opioids must be for a “legitimate medical purpose” and the doctor must give the prescription in the ordinary course of professional practice. 21 C.F.R. §1306.04. A doctor who prescribes opioids solely to support an addiction not only breaks the law, but also may be subject to civil liability.

But a doctor can also commit professional negligence by failing to use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge in treating the patient. NRS 41A.015. If a physician fails to follow professional standards for monitoring a patient’s treatment but continues to prescribe opioids, the lack of care may be a legal cause of the patient’s resulting addiction-related injuries.

Pharmacies may also bear responsibility

The DEA requires pharmacists to evaluate whether a prescription for controlled substances is for a legitimate medical purpose. A pharmacist who knowingly fills an invalid prescription commits a crime. Like doctors, pharmacists also have a professional obligation to pay attention to the state of patients. Pharmacists are instructed to watch for “red flags” that can be signs of drug abuse: forged or altered prescriptions, cash payments, and early fills are just a few examples. Pharmacies that fail to follow proper procedures for handling controlled substances can be sued for negligence.

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. We pride ourselves on providing clients with personalized, compassionate service. If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction and you have questions about your rights to pursue legal actions, please reach out to us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.