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Medical Negligence – An Accidental Overdose of Prescription Pain Pills Can Lead to Lawsuits

GFI Blog LabelBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

In February 2009, a 30-year-old male patient was prescribed, all together, 180 pills of Dilaudid and Xanax from a South Florida pain clinic. Sometime within the next 24 hours the patient died of what medical examiners ruled an overdose. According to the American Association for Justice, the patient’s family then sued the pain management clinic alleging the clinic’s physician prescribed a lethal overdose of the drugs and the defendant was liable for damages resulting from the patient’s murder. In the lawsuit, the jury awarded the plaintiff more than $5.33 million.

Physicians and Business Owners Liable for Medical Negligence.

According to an article in American Medical News, of the pharmaceutical-related overdoses in 2010, seventy-four percent (74%) were unintentional. As prescription drug overdoses rise across the country, we are seeing some physicians and business owners held liable for medical negligence.

For example, in May 2012, an Alabama jury ruled a widower to receive $500,000 after he sued his wife’s physician. His wife died of an accidental overdose after being prescribed a number of narcotic pain medications. In April 2012, a woman was awarded $1.9 million after she sued her family physician claiming he over prescribed her methadone, which led to brain damage after she stopped breathing, according to American Medical News.

Click here to read the entire article from American Medical News.

Protecting Your Business and License.

Health care professionals need to pay close attention to patients who request pain medication. Being proactive about prescription management can also deter lawsuits or help in doctors’ defense if they are sued. Physicians must make sure their records meet all requirements of state laws and regulations. In cases where a patient has been “doctor-shopping” in order to abuse pain pills, we see state disciplinary investigations initiated against each physician who prescribed that individual medication. In most cases, these physicians were unaware of the other prescribers. Disciplinary actions such as these can often be defended when the physician has taken the proper safeguards.

Click here to read legal tips for physicians to manage pain patients.

Drug Monitoring Programs are Here to Stay.

The growing epidemic has some states developing drug monitoring programs to track drug seekers.

In Florida, a bill that would require doctors to check with the state’s drug database before writing a prescription for addictive medications passed in a House panel on March 19, 2013. Recently, legislators in California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are contemplating moves to tighten monitoring and prescribing of controlled substances. Click here to read a blog on the possible new actions in these states.

Health professionals should take note, these prescription drug monitoring programs can, and will be, used as a prosecution tool.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you think physicians and business owners should be held liable for medical negligence in cases of an accidental overdose? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Thirty-Two Indicted in Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Second Coordinated Pill Mill Takedown.” Department of Justice. (August 23, 2011). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/fls/PressReleases/110823-04.html

Gallegos, Alicia. “Physician Liability: When an Overdose Brings a Lawsuit.” American Medical News. (March 4, 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/AMN_Overdose%20Lawsuits.PDF

LaMendola, Bob. “Pain Clinic Boss Jeffrey George Pleads Guilty to Murder.” Sun Sentinel. (August 29, 2011). From: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-08-29/health/fl-hk-jeff-george-pleads-guilty-20110829_1_pain-clinic-cynthia-cadet-george-twins

About the Authors: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Number of Oxycodone-Related Deaths Down in Florida

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

It looks like Florida’s prescription drug legislation, the statewide prescription drug monitoring database and the prescription drug crackdowns by law enforcement may be working, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The FDLE states in its semi-annual report, oxycodone-related deaths statewide dropped between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. A look at the national numbers shows that the number of people abusing prescription drugs is also down.

Florida and National Numbers.

In the first half of 2012, there were 759 oxycodone-related deaths in Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. That number is down from 1,058 during the same time period a year before. The Orlando Sentinel states that nationwide 7 million people abused prescription drugs in 2010. By 2011, that number had dropped to 6.1 million. Studies also show prescription drug use among young adults ages 18 to 25 is also on the decline. The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation Director believes these numbers are down because young people are realizing these drugs are dangerous and can be deadly.

Click here to read the entire article from the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida Cracks Down on Prescription Drug Abuse.

Previously, Florida was known as a state where drug addicts and dealers could easily find a pill mill or go doctor shopping to get prescription drugs. In the past two years, Florida state leaders and law enforcement officials have stepped up regulations and made serious crackdowns on doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies.

In April 2013, a Lake Mary doctor was sentenced to 25 years in prison for trafficking prescription drugs. Click here to read that story. In December 2012, a fake prescription drug ring was busted in Osceola County. To read that story, click here. In June 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Florida law enforcement announced operation “Pill Street Blues” targeting doctors and clinic owners across Florida. Click here to read more.

Health Care Professional Must Stay Ahead of Patients with Chronic Pain.

Even though the number of people abusing prescription drugs is down, state regulatory boards, private certification boards and federal agencies are not going to ease up. Many physicians in practice today are eschewing multi-disciplinary approaches to treating chronic pain in favor of monotherapies with narcotic medications.

These physicians do this at their own peril. In our practice we see many physicians in trouble with state medical boards and law enforcement officials because of their prescribing practices. If you treat patients with chronic pain it is imperative that you stay ahead of them. Click here to read a blog on legal tips for health care professionals to manage pain patients.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you think the new legislation, the state prescription drug monitoring database and the crackdowns by law enforcement are making a difference in the war against prescription drugs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “‘We Can Stop This Epidemic,’ CDC Boss Says at Rx-Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 2, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-prescription-drug-abuse-summit-20130402,0,4693169.story

Pavuk, Amy. “Drug-Related Deaths Plunge in First Half of 2012.” Orlando Sentinel. (March 25, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-drug-deaths-down-20130325,0,6750345.story

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Nation Rx Drug Abuse Summit Held in Central Florida-Leaders Share Struggles and Triumphs in “War Against Prescription Drugs”

11 Indest-2008-8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

From April 2 through April 4, 2013, the country’s leading experts on the prescription drug epidemic met in Central Florida for the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit, according to the Orlando Sentinel. National leaders including the White House drug czar, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner and Florida’s Attorney General (AG) shared ongoing challenges and strides each department has made in its fight against prescription drugs.

Good News in the War Against Prescription Drugs.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) stated in its semi-annual report that oxycodone-related deaths statewide dropped between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. In the first half of 2012, there were 759 oxycodone-related deaths in Florida. That number is down from 1,058 during the same time period a year before.

A look at the national numbers shows that the number of people abusing prescription drugs is down. According to the White House drug czar, seven million people abused prescription drugs in 2010. By 2011, that number had dropped to 6.1 million. Studies also show prescription drug use among young adults ages 18 to 25 is also on the decline. To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

Summit Focused on Need for More State Prescriptions Drug Monitoring Programs.

During the summit leaders spoke of the need to help state prescription drug monitoring programs succeed.

Just in March 2013, three states made moves to tighten monitoring and prescribing of controlled substances. Legislators in California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are contemplating new regulations regarding the use of prescription drug monitoring programs. What this means is that whatever state you may be in, you should be aware that lawmakers are implementing similar programs and laws in their governments. To learn more, click here.

Drug Monitoring Programs Can Be Used as a Prosecution Tool.

Health professionals should take note, these prescription drug monitoring programs can, and will be, used as a prosecution tool. Enforcement of drug laws and prescribing regulations has been ever increasing in recent years. The implementation of these databases and corresponding regulations are going to provide more tools for law enforcement and state medical boards to crack down on physicians. In order to avoid trouble it is crucial that you take time to review your state’s prescribing and record keeping laws with an experienced health care attorney.

From experience, we have seen the database in Florida used mostly as a tool for prosecution of pain management physicians and pharmacists. Even in cases where the pharmacist has been the one to notify the authorities of suspected forged prescriptions and where the pharmacist has cooperated in prosecuting the criminals, I have seen this database cited as evidence against him or her. I do not believe this is what the legislation intended. Physicians and pharmacists should consider using whatever database is implemented in their respective states, or otherwise remaining vigilant to avoid being labeled an overprescriber.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Does the state where you are located have a prescription drug monitoring program? What do you think of these programs? Are they necessary? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “‘We Can Stop This Epidemic,’ CDC Boss Says at Rx-Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 2, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-prescription-drug-abuse-summit-20130402,0,4693169.story

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Crackdown in the Supply of Prescription Medications Drive Floridians to Heroin

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For the past three years, Florida lawmakers and officials have waged war against prescription drug abuse. At the peak of the pill abuse epidemic, seven people a day reportedly died of a prescription drug overdose in Florida. As the Sunshine State became known as painkiller capital of America, officials worked quickly to enact legislation against prescription drugs, develop and monitor the statewide prescription drug monitoring database, and crackdown on prescription drug abusers and pill mills. Flash forward to summer 2013, prescription pills are harder to come by and more expensive, therefore making them less appealing to addicts. However, that does not mean the war is over. Now addicts are finding their replacement fix in heroin, according to the Miami Herald.

Click here to read the entire article from The Miami Herald.

Oxycodone-Related Deaths Down, While Heroin Numbers Rise in Florida.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) semi-annual report, oxycodone-related deaths dropped statewide between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. I previously wrote a blog on the decline of oxycodone-related deaths in Florida. To read that blog, click here.

Now that oxycodone-related deaths are down, heroin numbers are on the rise. According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, from July 2010 to June 2011, there were 45 heroin-related deaths statewide. From July 2011 to June 2012, the number jumped to 77 heroin-related deaths. The FDLE is seeing the same trend. In the first three months of 2013, heroin-related charges totaled 948 and in the same three months in 2012, that number was 772.

Florida Officials Try to Fight Heroin.

Lawmakers took dramatic actions to reduce the supply of prescription drugs on the streets. According to the Miami Herald, lawmakers are now trying to fight heroin before it takes off.

Broward County’s substance abuse commission and the Sanford-Brown Institute hosted a workshop to share the news about the growing heroin trend. The commission’s board of governors has formed a task force to put together an anti-heroin campaign. The group is also publicizing the 911 Good Samaritan Act. This Act protects callers from prosecution for possessing or ingesting low-level controlled substances under some circumstances.

The Ultimate Results of Such Crackdowns.

The war on prescription drug abuse took away the supply, but not the demand. Since the crackdown we have seen the largest legitimate pharmacy chains in the state and nation not allowed to fill prescriptions for painkillers. Click here to read a blog on a Walgreens distribution center that was served with an immediate suspension order from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). To read a blog on the DEA pulling the controlled substance licenses from two Central Florida CVS pharmacies.

This has left some patients in dire straits. They are suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think about the increase in heroin use? Is one drug more dangerous than another? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Burch, Audra. “As Pill Mills Fade Away, Heroin Fills the Void.” The Miami Herald. (May 11, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/11/3392908/as-prescription-pills-fade-heroin.html

Gillen, Michele. “Dangerous Drug Creating New Addicts.” WBFS. (May 22, 2013). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/05/22/dangerous-drug-creating-new-addicts/

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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