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Who Bears Responsibility for Prescription Drug Overdoses

A drug overdose can cause severe injuries and even death. The National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that deaths from opioid-based prescription pain medications are by far the leading cause of drug-related overdose deaths in the United States. Opioids are not the only class of prescription medication that can lead to abuse and overdose. Medications to treat anxiety and depression, sleep disorders, behavioral problems, and others can also be misused. The specific effects of overdose vary by drug, but can include severe consequences like coma, tremors, or long-term injuries to the brain and other organs. Prescription drug overdoses are a complex problem with many different causes. The individual who suffers an overdose may be a habitual abuser, but overdoses can also happen due to a mistake, such as if someone forgets that they’ve already taken a dose and they keep taking more. An overdose may also result from errors made by the prescribing doctor or the pharmacy supplying the medication.
  • Doctors. Under Nevada law a doctor must exercise reasonable care, skill, or knowledge while treating a patient. Failing to do so is grounds for a professional negligence lawsuit against the doctor. Doctors have many legitimate reasons for prescribing drugs that can have severe negative effects if taken in large doses. Professional negligence can come into play if a doctor fails to act on signs that the patient is abusing the drug or is likely to misuse it.
  • Pharmacies. The role of dispensing pharmacies in the opioid epidemic has received a great deal of attention. Pharmacies follow procedures to ensure that the prescriptions they fill are lawful and accurate. If a pharmacist fails to follow these procedures he or she may be committing a crime as well as placing the patient in danger. In rare cases the pharmacist may also make a mistake, like supplying the wrong dosage, that could lead to overdose.
  • Caregivers. If someone other than the patient is administering medications that person may bear legal responsibility for ensuring that the dosage is correct. Patients who receive home care or who live in residential care facilities may be given incorrect dosages and suffer harm as a consequence.
  • The drug’s manufacturer. In some cases the manufacturer of a drug may bear liability for a patient’s overdose. Among other things, a manufacturer must warn patients about potential side effects of using its products. If a warning label fails to disclose important risks the labeling may be inadequate. The manufacturer may bear responsibility in other ways as well.
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served clients in the Las Vegas area in cases involving personal injury and professional negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered a drug overdose and you have questions about your legal options, please reach out to us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our website.