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Opioid Usage, Health Risks and Lawsuit Settlements

opioid pills opened bottle

Opioid usage, side effects and addiction

When you’ve had surgery, and especially a major surgery like a hip transplant, the recovery is often painful. Traditionally doctors often prescribe opioids such as Oxycodone, Vicodin, and Percocet to manage their patients’ pain.  

But now a recently concluded large-scale research study from Stanford University found that very few people are able to stop taking the powerful drugs, and are becoming addicted to the opioids. This is nothing new to the attorneys at TheLawFirm.com: we have been witnessing this unfortunate result for years.   

The research study compared the medical records of about 642,000 adults under 65 who underwent a knee replacement or other type of surgery to those of just over 18 million people who didn’t. Neither group had taken opioids in the year before the study period.    

Researchers found that nearly all the surgeries were associated with a patient filling 10 or more opioid prescriptions, or receiving more than a four-months’ supply of the drugs, in a single year. These patients are defined as having a higher risk of chronic opioid use.  

When are opioids prescribed?

After about 3 months prior to a surgical procedure it is generally viewed as highly unusual for a patient to still need opioids to relieve pain. While complications could account for a small subset of patients that experience chronic pain, it is also extremely likely that some patients are vulnerable to opioid dependence, and wind up taking the drugs long term.  

Of the 11 common procedures studied, knee surgery was most likely to lead to long-term opioid use. The study found that 1 out of every 100 patients who had a knee replacement surgery became a chronic opioid user. That is still a lot of people, an estimated 7,200 Americans a year who weren’t taking opioids before knee surgery, wind up taking the drugs for a long time afterward.     

Risk Of Addiction

Could you be at risk? Prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percocet, or Vicodin can be as addictive as heroin. Even people who are not addicted can become physically dependent on the drugs if they take them continuously for more than two weeks. Not surprisingly, the risk for chronic opioid use was higher in people undergoing more extensive surgeries, than those having minor procedures. Other factors that increased risk included a history of substance abuse or taking an antidepressant or a medication which includes anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium and, Ativan.  

Having risk factors for opioid dependence doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a needed surgery, or that you should do without pain medication, but you should be aware of the risks when planning your treatment with your doctor.

If you do wind up taking opioids continuously for more than a couple of weeks, stopping the drugs abruptly can trigger withdrawal symptoms such as worsening pain, severe stomach upset, anxiety, and sleeplessness.  

Alternatives to Opioids

There are alternatives for pain relief as opposed to taking the highly addictive pharmaceutical drugs such as ice packs, local anesthetics, and over the counter medication like Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. Also talk with your doctor about how soon you can start moving again as physical activity is shown to speed recovery and reduce pain. 

The attorneys at TheLawFirm.com are huge advocates of educating yourself as much as possible to make sure that you don’t get taken advantage of by a medical system that may not have your best interests at heart.

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Opioid Fact:
91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose

Settlement news and Updates

INSYS SETTLES ILLINOIS OPIOID LAWSUIT FOR $4.5 MILLION

August 7, 2017
Drugmaker Insys will pay $4.5 million to settle allegations of deceptively marketing its fentanyl-based cancer medication in a lawsuit brought by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The Arizona pharmaceutical manufacturer has been in a great deal of legal trouble lately, most of it stemming from several of its former officers confessing to having participated in a scheme to bribe doctors to promote its powerful opioid medication Subsys. Six former execs of the company have pleaded guilty, but former CEO Michael Babich and others have pleaded not guilty.

Subsys was the focus of the Illinois suit, as well, in which Madigan alleged that Insys had marketed the drug for purposes for which it had not received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Just this week, Insys, still an extant company, released a new drug called Syndros. The active ingredient in Syndros is THC, the active ingredient in cannabis; Insys intends the drug to be used for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Opioid addiction claims the lives of some 30,000 Americans every year.

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MALLINCKRODT PAYS $35 MILLION IN OPIOID SETTLEMENT

July 17, 2017
Pharmaceutical giant Mallinckrodt will pay a settlement of $35 million in a deal to make amends for its role in the opioid epidemic that has claimed the lives of some 30,000 Americans.

In settling for $35 million, Mallinckrodt will not formally admit any guilt in its role in the production and distribution of the prescription opioid painkiller oxycodone. Nevertheless, the company has been taken to task by the U.S. government for being too aggressive in its distribution of the potentially addictive medication, and for not taking sufficient steps to prevent the abuse of its pharmaceutical products.

Mallinckrodt had been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for failing to detect and report “suspicious orders” of oxycodone. The company had, according to the government, distributed an “increasingly excessive quantity of oxycodone pulls without notifying DEA [the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.”

The settlement was reached in courts in New York and Michigan.

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