Killer Pain Killers: Prescription Drug Negligence

Today a jury found physician Dewey MacKay guilty of forty counts of illegal distribution.  This conviction follows the recent guilty pleas entered by two other Utah doctors, Warren Stack and Max Cannon.  The actions of these physicians were deemed to be not just negligent, but criminal.

All three of these doctors were dispensing powerful analgesic drugs–painkillers–in high amounts.  Analgesic drugs are commonly used to relieve pain. Some analgesics, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, are relatively mild and are available over the counter.

Other analgesics, however, are powerful narcotics, and are available only with a prescription. Some common prescription analgesics include morphine and codeine, which are naturally occurring opiates; hydrocodone (Vicodin and Lortab) and oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet), which are semi-synthetic opioids; and fully synthetic opioids, such as Fentanyl and Methadone. Under the close supervision of health care providers, these drugs can play an important part of a patient’s pain management regimen.

Unfortunately, these drugs can also cause serious side effects, from nausea and constipation to respiratory arrest and even wrongful death. Additionally, due to their narcotic nature, there is a high propensity for addiction and abuse. Dr. MacKay, Dr. Stack, and Dr. Cannon were all using their patients’ addiction for selfish reasons.  Other doctors, however, are also over-prescribing these drugs, or improperly supervising a patient’s pain management regimen.  While this is not criminal activity, it is medical malpractice.  Negligent prescribing and monitoring of painkillers can cause serious personal injuries and give rise to medical malpractice claims.

Sometimes, careless physicians can transition patients from one narcotic painkiller to another, with disastrous consequences. For instance, Methadone is metabolized very slowly, and has a half-life of 15-60 hours. Additionally, it is fat soluble, and can remain in your system longer than other drugs. Likewise, OxyContin, a popular brand of oxycodone, is formulated to be released over time (the name is an abbreviation of Oxycodone Continuous release). When a patient is taken off of a “slow” drug and transitioned to a fast acting, instant release version, overdose can easily occur. The results of overdose can include respiratory arrest, anoxic brain injuries, or even wrongful death.

If you or someone you know has been over-prescribed painkillers by a doctor, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately.  Our legal team has successfully handled many cases of medical negligence involving narcotics, and we can help you get the answers you need.  Call today for a free, no obligation consultation: 801-424-9088.