Across the Nation, Law Enforcement Is Cracking Down on Physicians Who Illegally Prescribe Painkillers
Recently, there were two stories, seemingly unrelated, of physicians on either side of the country being investigated or indicted for their actions. In one case, a doctor specializing in pain had his office raided in a drug abuse probe. In the other case, 44 physicians and other health care workers in Macomb County, Michigan were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly committing fraud. Despite the fact these cases have no direct connection, they are connected by a common theme: prescription of painkillers such as Vicodin or OxyContin despite no evidence of injury or pain. Both types of painkiller have been known to increase the risk of birth defects.
In the first case, the physician, John Dimowo, is a pain doctor who was previously at the center of a criminal probe into prescription overdose deaths. According from an affidavit attached to the search warrant, he wrote as many as 37 prescriptions for Vicodin per day. Dimowo, who is board-certified in pain management, argues that it is often difficult to tell when someone is truly in pain and when someone is faking, because everyone's experience with pain is different.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, 44 people were arrested and subject to a 13-count indictment having to do with selling prescription drugs. The federal government alleges that those charged were part of a scheme to bill insurers and the government for unnecessary prescriptions, and that they accepted bribes and kickbacks for writing prescriptions for painkillers like Vicodin or OxyContin that were later sold on the street.
This is a serious situation nationwide that is either growing, or has at least gained wider attention from state and federal law enforcement. Besides being extremely addictive and increasing the risk of death, OxyContin and Vicodin use may 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. Meanwhile, a woman who takes Vicodin has an increased risk of having a baby 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 may file a medical malpractice lawsuit against your physician. However, your success depends upon the circumstances. If you knowingly bought your painkillers 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. Most states have "comparative negligence" laws where the injured party can be found partially at fault for the injury. 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 seeking relief from pain, and he prescribed OxyContin or Vicodin without informing you of the risks, you might be successful in getting a jury to determine that he committed medical malpractice.