Drug Alert: Epidemic of Prescription Drug Overdose in Ohio

Did you know that:

  • The leading cause of accidental death in Ohio and the U.S. is drug overdose by prescription painkillers.
  • An Ohioan dies every 4+ hours due to prescription painkillers.
  • Unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes and suicide.
  • Prescription pain medications are associated with more overdoses than any other prescription or illegal drug including cocaine and heroin.
  • Prescription pain medications most associated with overdose are:
  • “Deaths from opioid overdose have increased fourfold in the past decade, and methadone now accounts for nearly a third of opioid-associated deaths,” said the CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden
  • Use of multiple drugs, especially multiple depressants, is a risk factor for unintentional overdose.


Why is there an Epidemic of Prescription Drug Overdose?

Societal and medical trends that lead to this problem include changes in clinical prescribing practices for pain medication, changes in marketing of medications directly to consumers, overmedication and mixing medications, substance abuse, widespread diversion of medications, deception of providers including doctor shopping and prescription fraud, unscrupulous providers (e.g., “pill mills”), and medication errors.



Did You Know That. . .

Methadone is prescribed to ease pain, but it is a killer.
Methadone, one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers in the United States, accounts for nearly thirty percent of painkiller overdose deaths each year. Overall, this has caused up to 5,000 overdose deaths annually, more than twice the number for any other opioid.

Methadone accumulates in the body.
While Methadone can be effective in blocking pain for up to six hours at a time, it can build up over time, causing respiratory issues and even death. This occurs because Methadone can interfere with normal heart rhythms and breathing rates even when it is correctly taken. Once it is taken, Methadone can stay in someone’s system for days.

Methadone took Oxycontin’s place.
While Oxycontin used to be the drug of choice for doctors who needed to relieve chronic pain, with the scrutiny of law enforcement, physicians began looking for another option. Methadone fit the bill with a long history of safe use and inexpensive pricing.

Methadone is only for addicts.
Not true. In fact, Methadone has been used for a long time to manage chronic pain. Prescribed by general practitioners and other generalists who don’t fully understand the dangers in opioid use, many patients quickly get into trouble when using it to manage pain. Methadone use for addiction recovery is used in a highly controlled environment and only given in small doses.



What Are the Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse/Addiction For Family Members to Monitor:

  • Forging or altering prescriptions
  • Stealing or borrowing prescriptions
  • Increasing dosage of prescribed amounts
  • Arrested or convicted of diversion or other drug offense
  • DUI’s
  • Obtaining drugs from multiple providers
  • Having family members, friends, law enforcement or healthcare professional expressing concern
  • HX of substance abuse
  • Appearing impaired
  • Asking for early refills
  • Sharing drugs with another person
  • HX of illegal drug use
  • Recurring ER visits


Empirical Signs:

What Are The Signs/Symptoms for Drug Abuse/Addiction for a Doctor of Pharmacist To Watch For:

  • Lying
  • Asking for drugs by name
  • Overrating pain
  • Describing pain as 10 of 10
  • Wanting to try drugs he/she’s heard about from other sources – TV, friends
  • Losing meds
  • Asking for increase of drugs
  • Increasing drug usage without permission
  • Use of drugs from friends or relatives
  • Calls from pharmacy with concerns of early refills
  • Indications from other care providers of concern
  • Indications of concern from family, friends, law enforcement, courts
  • Letters from health insurance company telling treating doctors that patient is taking too many opiates
  • Letters from medicare questioning drug use
  • Psychosis
  • Complaints of nebulous unverifiable pain
  • Suspect urine screens
  • Requesting to “get off” certain drugs
  • Asking for brand name and not generic
  • Asking for 3 month refills
  • Trying to stop medications, but unsuccessful
  • Drug, opiate possession violations
  • Failing drug screens



Medical Malpractice:

What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital or hospital worker. When providing medical treatment, the healthcare professional may have disregarded the rules and standards followed by other health care professionals with similar training and experience. The healthcare professional’s negligent act or failure to act caused harm and injury to a patient or patients.

Does someone who is not satisfied with the results of his or her treatment or surgery have a malpractice case?
In general, there are no guarantees of medical results, and unexpected or unsuccessful results do not necessarily mean negligence occurred. To succeed in a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff has to show an injury or damages that resulted from the doctor’s negligent act or failure to follow established rules and/ or guidelines.

What type of injuries are compensable?
Typically, the more serious the injury the more likely the injury will be considered compensable. For example, loss of the use of an arm or a leg or amputation; loss of your ability to perform routine daily activities due to the injury; prolonged or unnecessary treatment due to a delay in diagnosing a disease or injury; reduction in life expectancy due to negligent treatment or delay in treatment; and other significant injuries. Since there are a variety of injury types that may be compensable, you should consult with one of our attorneys before deciding on your own whether your injuries are significant or not.

What should I do if a think I have a medical malpractice claim?
You should call us as soon as possible. Be ready to share with us exactly what happened, from your first visit to the doctor or other health care provider, through your last contact with him or her. If possible, obtain your medical records and bring them to your first meeting with us. There are time limits that cover how long someone may bring a medical malpractice claim, so time is of the essence.



Wrongful Death:

What is wrongful death?
A wrongful death claim arises when a person dies as a result of someone else’s negligence. It could be negligence in operating a motor vehicle, using a product, in a hospital or nursing home setting; or a variety of other causes as well. The deceased’s surviving relatives, dependents, or beneficiaries may bring suit against those claimed to have been responsible, and they may seek monetary damages to compensate for the losses. Each state has its own statute covering the viability of claims for wrongful death, and not every state follows the same guidelines, principles, or rules. An attorney who is experienced in investigating and handling wrongful death cases can advise you on whether you have a valid wrongful death claim and can help you pursue that claim to the best possible outcome.

How does an attorney assess or evaluate these losses?
An attorney considers how long a person would have lived had he/she not died due to a wrongful cause; years he/she could have worked and contributed to their family; did he/she leave behind a spouse, children, a business? A court may also consider the value of past contributions made by the decedent, personal habits, and spending behaviors.

Who is entitled to bring a wrongful death claim?
It depends on the jurisdiction in question. Generally, the primary beneficiaries of the individual-often the spouse and children-are able to bring a claim, and in some states the parents of the deceased may be also designated as beneficiaries. In most jurisdictions, in order to be legally responsible for the death of another person, the law does not require that the defendant’s conduct be the sole or any cause of the death. Even when the defendant’s negligence contributes in part, or in conjunction with other circumstances, to the decedent’s death, liability may still attach. Generally, a wrongful death cause of action can arise out of any act of negligence, including an intentional act, or a reckless act, or strict liability. When a defendant is found legally liable for the death of another, the types of losses that may be recovered can also vary greatly. For example, the plaintiffs may be able to recover the costs of medical care and treatment related to the negligent conduct, the funeral expenses, the decedent’s loss of future earnings; the decedent’s loss of benefits (such as pension benefits) and other general losses.



Personal Injury:

What is a “personal injury?”
Personal injury is a term describing injuries to a person’s body – but it is not limited as to how the injury was incurred. For example, it is not limited to motor vehicle accident, or slipping and falling on a sidewalk.
Injuries to a person can occur in a wide variety of circumstances and in a wide variety of locations, such as businesses, hospitals and homes. The one common thread or string that connects them all is that the injury occurred because of someone’s negligent actions.

How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
First, you must have suffered an injury to your person or property. For example, have you suffered a broken bone, a torn or sprained muscle, a torn ligament, nerve damage or impingement, or bulging disc in your spine? Have you received medical, chiropractic or physical therapy services because of your injury? Second, was your injury the result of someone else’s fault?

I’ve been hurt in an accident. What’s the first thing I should do if I want to file a claim?
There are a number of things you can do in the first few days and weeks after an accident to protect yourself, your rights and your potential for recovery, such as: 1) write down as much as you can about the accident itself, your injuries and any other losses (such as wages) you’ve suffered as a result of the accident; 2) make notes of conversations that you have with people involved in the accident or the injury claim; 3) preserve evidence of who caused the accident and what damage was done by collecting physical evidence and taking photographs; 4) locate people who witnessed the accident; 5) notify anyone you think might be responsible for the accident of your intention to file a claim for your injuries, especially if a government agency or employee may be involved, or a business; and 6) contact us to evaluate your circumstances.

How soon after I am injured do I have to file a lawsuit?
Every state has certain time limits, called “statutes of limitations,” which govern the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. In some states, you may have as little as one year to file a lawsuit arising out of an automobile accident. If you miss the deadline for filing your case, your claims can be dismissed. Consequently, it is important to talk with us as soon as you receive or discover an injury.




What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium (a membrane that covers the internal organs) become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.

How common is mesothelioma?
Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.

What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?
Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.

Who is at increased risk for developing mesothelioma?
Asbestos has been mined and used commercially since the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II. Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Initially, the risks associated with asbestos exposure were not known. However, an increased risk of developing mesothelioma was later found among people who worked in certain industries where asbestos-containing products were used, such as:

  • The steel industry
  • Chemical plants
  • Nuclear power plants
  • Construction industry including the remodeling industry.

Some of the types of jobs that would have been exposed to asbestos include:

  • Insulators
  • Mechanics
  • Welders
  • Electricians
  • Auto mechanics (brake linings).
  • Managers who oversaw and supervised workers in these areas

There is some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of asbestos workers.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleura are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever. If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.

These symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions. It is important to see a doctor about any of these symptoms. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis.

How is mesothelioma diagnosed?
Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult, because the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other conditions. Diagnosis begins with a review of the patient’s medical history, including any history of asbestos exposure. A complete physical examination may be performed, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. A CT (or CAT) scan or an MRI may also be useful. A CT scan is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. In an MRI, a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures are viewed on a monitor and can also be printed.

A biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. In a biopsy, a surgeon or a medical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer) removes a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. A biopsy may be done in different ways, depending on where the abnormal area is located. If the cancer is in the chest, the doctor may perform a thoracoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small cut through the chest wall and puts a thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope into the chest between two ribs. Thoracoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the chest and obtain tissue samples. If the cancer is in the abdomen, the doctor may perform a peritoneoscopy. To obtain tissue for examination, the doctor makes a small opening in the abdomen and inserts a special instrument called a peritoneoscope into the abdominal cavity. If these procedures do not yield enough tissue, more extensive diagnostic surgery may be necessary.

If the diagnosis is mesothelioma, the doctor will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the disease. Staging involves more tests in a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to which parts of the body. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.

How is mesothelioma treated?
Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Sometimes, these treatments are combined.

Surgery is a common treatment for mesothelioma. The doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. For cancer of the pleura (pleural mesothelioma), a lung may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy affects the cancer cells only in the treated area. The radiation may come from a machine (external radiation) or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).

Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Most drugs used to treat mesothelioma are given by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV). Doctors are also studying the effectiveness of putting chemotherapy directly into the chest or abdomen (intracavitary chemotherapy).