A recent report found that the number of drug overdose deaths has risen for the eleventh year in a row. Most of the overdoses involved painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. One reason, experts say, is because these more powerful painkillers are being prescribed for conditions that could be managed by less powerful painkillers, and many physicians are ignorant of just how addictive these painkillers can be.
In 2010, the latest year that information was available, there were 38,329 deaths, with prescription drugs representing 60% of those deaths. Of those drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, like Valium, accounted for 30% of them. However, three out of four deaths could be attributed to OxyContin or Vicodin. The number of overall deaths is 3.6% higher than in 2009.
Experts warn that while OxyContin and Vicodin may be satisfactory for serious illnesses like cancer, they are too powerful for conditions such as a bad migraine or back pain. Even more concerning are the number of physicians across the country who operate "pill mills," where the physician issues prescriptions for medications even with little to no evidence that the patient has a health problem. The physicians who operate pill mills generally do so for profit only, and federal and state authorities are trying to shut them down. However, sometimes the physicians are simply ignorant of a patient's attempt to con them into more medication. The University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora is considering a rule that would prevent emergency room doctors from prescribing pills to those who claim that they lost theirs. Last month, a federal panel recommended that Vicodin be subject to the same restrictions as other narcotics like oxycodone.
Besides being powerfully addictive and increasing the risk of death, OxyContin and Vicodin also increase the risk of birth defects. A pregnant woman who takes OxyContin has an increased chance of giving birth to a baby with heart defects, including atrial septal defects, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and pulmonary valve stenosis. A woman who takes Vicodin has an increased risk of her baby being born with spina bifida, cleft lip or palate, congenital heart defects, genital defects, and more.
If your child was born with any of the above defects and you believe that it was due to your taking OxyContin or Vicodin, you have the option of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against your physician. Whether you are successful in your lawsuit depends upon the circumstances. If your prescription came from a "pill mill," then a jury might believe that you were equally responsible for your child's birth defect, because patients usually go to pill mills so they do not have to prove an injury, or so they can obtain more medication than their usual physician would prescribe. Most states have what is known as "comparative negligence" laws, and some states even have laws that forbid the injured party from collecting an award if that party was at least 50% at fault. On the other hand, if you went to your usual physician for migraines or back pain, and he prescribed OxyContin or Vicodin without informing you of the risks, you might be successful in getting a jury verdict that he committed medical malpractice.
The birth defect attorneys at Oshman & Mirisola, LLP have successfully represented clients in birth defect lawsuits for more than 35 years. If your child suffers from a birth defect that you believe could be due to your being exposed to OxyContin or Vicodin while pregnant, please contact us today by calling (800) 400-8182, or submit our online Contact Us form.