The rate of opioid overdose deaths is at crisis levels. Every year, tens of thousands of families lose their loved ones to this devastating epidemic. From the inner city to rural farms in the Midwest, these painkillers ruin communities. What makes this crisis more disturbing, however, is that it was preventable.
In recent years, we learned that drug manufacturers knew the danger their products presented. They knew they were far more addictive than advertised, and they sold them anyway. They put profits before people.
When it’s your family that’s grieving the loss of a loved one, you deserve more than a shoulder to cry on. You deserve justice. You need an advocate you will help you find out the truth about who’s responsible for the death. You need someone who will make sure the responsible party faces the consequences of their actions.
We are that advocate.
- Experienced: Only a handful of lawfirms have experience suing on behalf of victims of opioid overdoses. Console & Associates P.C. is one of them.
- We Know How To Win: We’ve sued on behalf of grieving families and got them justice. We’ve held drug manufacturers accountable for their deadly products and suspended dangerous physicians. Our claims have won millions for our clients.
- You Are More Than A Number: Losing a loved one is devastating; it’s not a statistic. At Console & Associates P.C., we’ll never treat you, or your loss, as a number. We go above and beyond for our clients whenever we can because it’s the right thing to do.
- You Never Have To Worry About Paying: Our no fee promise is just that. We don’t get paid until we win your claim. There is never a fee to speak with our attorney’s, and there are no hidden costs. Your ability to get justice for your family should never depend on your ability to pay.
- We Handle Everything: Let your attorney handle all the paperwork and calls with the insurance companies. We’ll seek justice for your claim, allowing you to focus on your family.
- Partner Richard J. Hollawell, in pursuit of a claim on behalf of Sarah Fuller’s estate against Insys Therapeutics, obtained an audio recording in response to a subpoena. The audio recording is of a shocking call in which an Insys representative misled a pharmacy benefit manager to secure authorization for the fentanyl spray Subsys for the late Sarah Fuller, who subsequently died from the dangerous drug. Mr. Hollawell’s discovery became national news after he provided the audiotape of the call to Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, who on September 6, 2017, included the evidence in the report of her opioids investigation findings. Mr. Hollawell is scheduled to testify about the Fuller matter at a Congressional hearing on September 12, 2017. For more about this new development in this ongoing opioid overdose case, read the Philadelphia Inquirer article or the CNN article. For Senator McCaskill’s full report, click here. Click to view the video.
- Guns, Money & Sex, How One Company Sold Fentanyl: The Palm Beach Post wrote a story detailing a pending lawsuit filed by former Insys sales rep, Maria Guzman. In the lawsuit, she claims that the company bribed doctors to prescribe Subsys. Subsys is the Fentanyl-based opioid that Sarah Fuller was prescribed and later overdosed on.
- NBC News journalist Cynthia McFadden interviewed our client’s family and an Insys Therapeutics whistleblower along with our own Richard J. Hollawell on the debut show of Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.
- News 4 New York’s I-Team interviewed the family of our client, the late Sarah Fuller, as well as Console & Associates P.C. Partner Richard J. Hollawell.
- On May 7th, 2018, the State Board of Medical Examiners revoked the medical license of Dr. Vivienne Matalon, the physician that prescribed Sarah Fuller the fatal Subsys dose.
- NowThis, a popular Facebook news page released a video on how America’s deadliest drug dealers pushed legal pills, highlighting the case of Sarah Fuller and the thousands of opioid victims like her.
What happened to your loved one is the kind of tragedy that should never happen again. Together, we can make sure the people who caused your family member’s death pay for what they’ve done.
Don’t wait another day to seek justice for your loved one’s death. Call (856) 778-5500 to discuss your opioid lawsuit with a legal professional at no cost today.
Need Help Now? Find Out Who Should Pursue an Opioid Overdose Lawsuit.
Wondering if you have a potential case? The opioid death attorneys at Console & Associates P.C. know that your time is too valuable to waste. Certain factors make it more likely that you have the grounds for a claim.
You should speak with an overdose attorney if:
- Your loved one was prescribed an opioid by a medical professional, no matter how long ago this first prescription was written
- The overdose led to the death of your family member, even if it involved opioid drugs that weren’t prescribed to your loved one
If this sounds like your situation, our opioid drug lawyers may be able to help you. Read on to learn more, or contact us right away for a free consultation.
Opioid Overdose Definition
This tragedy may be the first time you’re learning about the opioid overdose crisis. That’s the case for many families of overdose victims. You’re looking for answers about why fatal intoxication occurred, but first, you need to understand the basics.
The meaning of opioid overdose is the consumption of a dangerous amount of an opioid. By its definition, an opioid overdose is a drug-related death. But that doesn’t mean that it’s your loved one’s fault.
When an opiate overdose is the cause of death, there are many factors to consider. It’s possible for patients to die from an overdose under a doctor’s care. Yes, even patients who take painkillers prescribed to them for valid medical reasons. Even they take those painkillers exactly as directed.
It’s also possible for doctors to get patients hooked on these highly addictive prescription drugs. Many of these patients then turn to opioids from other sources to satisfy an addiction that isn’t their fault.
Opiates are drugs that affect the body in certain ways. Medically, opioids are used as painkillers for moderate to severe pain. These drugs are also used recreationally (and illegally) due to the sense of euphoria they produce. The legal opioids doctors prescribe their patients work in the same way as illegal opiates like heroin, and they have many of the same effects on the body.
Opioid drugs, legal or otherwise, work by attaching to molecules in the brain known as opioid receptors, once that happens, the drug actually changes how the brain works.
Some of these changes are helpful. By interfering with how the brain receives and processes pain signals, opioids reduce pain.
However, other effects can be harmful. Opioids can affect the reward system of the brain. This leads to drug cravings unrelated to the need for pain relief. As many as 25 percents of all patients whose primary care doctors prescribe opioids for non-cancer pain become addicted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.
How Does an Opioid Overdose Kill You?
The opioid overdose mechanism that causes death is lack of oxygen to the brain. Opiates depress respiration, in other words, they reduce the user’s breathing rate. This means the body is taking in less oxygen.
The more of a respiration-depressing medicine that a person takes, the stronger the effect on their breathing. Too much of an opioid can cause a user to go into respiratory arrest, or stop breathing completely. The lack of oxygen due to opiate overdose can cause brain damage and, if not quickly reversed, death.
How much of an opioid leads to an overdose? That varies a great deal. The typical opioid overdose amount depends on a number of factors, such as:
Type and strength of the opioid used
Some opioids are far more powerful than others. Doctors also prescribe different doses of opioid painkillers. Even illegal opiates like heroin are made in different (often, unknown) strengths.
The painkiller fentanyl, for example, is 100 times stronger than morphine and up to 50 times stronger than heroin. A deadly opioid overdose can result from taking just 0.25 milligrams of fentanyl, an amount about equal to just a tiny fraction of one baby aspirin, CNN reported.
The user’s tolerance to opioids
One of the changes that happen when a person uses opiates repeatedly over time is the development of tolerance. This means that the body becomes used to the drug, and it stops achieving the same pain-relieving effect. To keep using the medication to reduce pain, the patient has to take a higher dose of it.
Someone who has taken increasing doses of opiates over time may not be harmed by the same quantity of opioids that would be deadly to an opioid-naive person. In fact, some prescription painkillers, like fentanyl patches, are so strong that even accidental contact with the drug can sicken or kill a person who has no tolerance to opioids.
Opioid tolerance builds over time, but it can also drop. A person who is being weaned off of opioids or has stopped using them is in danger of overdose if the user starts taking the drug again. Some of the most powerful prescription opioids are strong enough that they can kill even an opioid-tolerant person, even when taken as directed, especially when a careless doctor is the one prescribing the drugs.
Your loved one’s doctor knew the risks of these medications; otherwise, the physician shouldn’t have been prescribing them in the first place. By giving your family member a painkiller strong enough to cause a fatal overdose, the doctor put your loved one’s life at risk. That makes the physician directly responsible for death. An opioid painkiller overdose lawyer can hold that doctor accountable for your loss.
Interactions with other medications or substances
Some opiate overdoses happen due to a combination of drugs. A patient who is using two or more types of opioids may be more likely to suffer a dangerous degree of respiratory depression.
Other types of drugs, too, can slow or stop your breathing. Alcohol and benzodiazepines (like the anxiety drug Xanax) have a similar effect on respiration, which makes it dangerous to combine opioids with these drugs.
Opioid Overdose Risk Factors
Though opioid overdoses happen as a result of taking a dangerous amount of an opiate drug, it’s easy to overdose accidentally. Patients may not realize how high a dose of painkillers their doctors have them taking. They might not be aware that the opiate could interact with other drugs, even drugs prescribed by the same doctor. Or they may become addicted to the medication, but their doctors deny them help for a substance abuse problem.
If anyone of these opioid overdose causes played a role in your loved one’s passing, the doctor could very well be at fault. Doctors who prescribe these drugs must be aware of the risk factors for overdose, and be vigilant about protecting their patients.
During the years our opioid addiction attorneys have been handling painkiller overdose claims, we have noticed some risk factors that many overdose victims have shared. Sadly, patients may have little control over these factors. Many patients receive almost no information about the risks, especially when they have the kind of negligent doctor that is likely to over-prescribe opiates.
Some of the opioid overdose risk factors include:
- People who are using methadone, oxycodone, or hydrocodone, the widely used drugs that are most commonly linked to deadly overdoses
- Patients who take powerful opioid medications such as fentanyl
- People who are on high doses of any opioid
- Patients who use opioids long enough to develop a physical tolerance
- People whose doctors have prescribed them multiple types of opioids to take together
- Patients who are also taking other medications that act on the central nervous system, such as benzodiazepines
- People who have developed a physical dependence on the medication and suffer withdrawal symptoms if they don’t take opioids
- Patients who take opioids off-label, for reasons not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), even if prescribed by their doctor for that purpose
- People whose doctors aren’t regularly performing exams and tests, but seem to treat the problem only with increasing dosages of pills
- Patients who have developed an opioid addiction, especially if their doctors fail to refer them to addiction treatment services
- People who supplement their prescription painkillers with opioids not prescribed to them, whether in the form of legal painkillers or illegal heroin. Often, this happens when doctors aren’t cautious about gradually weaning patients off of the drug or checking for signs of substance abuse problems.
Too often, it’s the doctor, not the patient, who makes the mistake that put patients at risk. You can find out the truth about your loved one’s doctor, and his or her negligent actions. An opioid overdose lawyer can help.
With our history of winning opioid painkiller lawsuits, we know that an overdose often isn’t the patient’s fault. Call (856) 778-5500 and let us find out who is really to blame.
Opioid Overdose Symptoms
There are three classic symptoms that indicate a person is suffering an overdose. These symptoms, known as the opioid overdose triad, are:
- Loss of consciousness or coma
- Constricted or, pinpoint, pupils
- Slowed, shallow, or stopped breathing
The loss of consciousness and cessation of breathing are two very dangerous opioid overdose effects. A person in the midst of an overdose can’t get help for themselves if they slip into a coma.
If there is someone around them who could call for help, they may not recognize the opioid overdose signs. The victim might seem like they are simply asleep and may even snore. Someone who is overdosing can’t be awoken by sound or touch, but it may be too late by the time anyone realizes that the overdose is happening.
As the overdose victim ceases breathing, the loss of oxygen has serious effects on the body. It takes only minutes for a person deprived of oxygen to suffer brain damage. Over time, the lack of oxygen causes cyanosis, a condition in which the lips and fingertips begin to turn blue.
If the victim gets help quickly enough, it’s possible to reverse the overdose and restore breathing. Otherwise, the person who has overdosed may never wake up from the coma.
An overdose is always a serious medical emergency. If you ever suspect that someone around you might have overdosed on opioids, it’s important to call 9-1-1 for help right away.
Opioid Overdose Treatment
Treating an opioid overdose requires emergency medical care. Often, when you call 9-1-1 for help, the first responders will arrive with an opioid overdose kit. An essential part of that kit is a medication called naloxone.
Naloxone is better known by its trade names, Narcan and Evzio. This medication has saved as many as 10,000 lives in the U.S.
Narcan is an antidote used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This drug attaches to the same opioid receptors in the brain that oxycodone, fentanyl, and heroin attach to. In doing so, it stops the opioids from affecting the body. The overdose victim can begin breathing again and regain consciousness.
Even after first responders administer naloxone, a person who has suffered an overdose must go to the hospital. For one thing, opioid toxicity can cause serious damage to the body even in those who survive the overdose. The only way to find out what damage has been done, and to treat it promptly to prevent it from getting worse, is for the patient to undergo a thorough examination. After an opioid overdose, an ECG, blood gas analysis, and other tests can help doctors determine the extent of the harm the overdose has done.
Narcan does not last nearly as long in the body as the opioids that cause overdoses to do. Once naloxone wears off, the number of opioids that remains in the body can still be toxic, enough, even, to cause another overdose. The person must remain somewhere where he or she can get emergency care in case loss of consciousness, and respiratory arrest occurs again.
When an Opioid Overdose Turns Fatal
Sadly, even with drugs like Narcan, tens of thousands of opioid overdoses aren’t able to be stopped. These overdoses have progressed too far, and the damage is too severe to survive. Opioid overdose is the leading cause of death involving drugs of any kind, legal or illegal.
It’s often not until an overdose occurs that the patient’s friends and family realize how difficult the situation is. Sometimes, they didn’t know that opioid use was a problem at all. When the drug use starts with a prescription from a doctor, neither the patient nor their loved ones question the safety of it. They trust the doctor to have their safety in mind, to do no harm.
Unfortunately, not all doctors deserve that trust.
After a deadly overdose is when families first realize that they need an opioid painkiller overdose attorney, though no one can bring back the loved one these families have lost, an opiate lawyer can get the family answers, justice, compensation, and maybe even closure.
The Opioid Overdose Epidemic
The problem of opioid use and abuse is so widespread that overdose has become an epidemic in the United States.
There are 40,000 deadly opioid overdoses a year now, STAT News reported.
Opioid overdoses claim 91 lives every single day in the United, States, according to the CDC.
Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies behind these drugs rake in the profits, $24,000,000,000 in worldwide prescription opioid sales, to be exact, CNBC News reported.
There are many factors that contribute to the opiate overdose epidemic. But it’s clear that over-prescribing and dangerous marketing of the drugs are two major ones.
Finding Out Who’s to Blame for an Opioid Overdose Death
When you have lost someone to an overdose, especially one that involved or began with prescription drugs, you have a lot of questions. Why your loved one? Why now? How could this have happened, especially under a doctor’s care?
One thing an opioid death lawyer will do for you is investigating your loved one’s care. Did the medical examiner’s report raise more questions than it answered? We can help you understand the report and what it implies.
Our opioid overdose lawyers will review your loved ones medical records for any hint of a doctor’s negligence. We’ll even find medical experts who are qualified to assess the doctor’s treatment of your family member, and we’ll cover the upfront costs for you.
In most cases, an opioid death attorney will sue the doctor, who negligently managed your loved one’s care. After all, the physician was the one prescribing the drugs. It’s the doctor’s fault for exposing your family member to opioids in the first place.
How do we identify a negligent physician? It takes a medical expert, another doctor, to determine this for sure. However, there are plenty of red flags that our overdose attorneys have learned to look for.
Failing to Examine the Patient
Often, a negligent doctor is haphazard when it comes to examining the patient or ordering tests. In some of the past opioid prescription lawsuits we have handled, the doctor didn’t even bother to report basic data such as the patient’s weight or vital signs.
Prescribing More and More Opioids (and Nothing Else)
With long-term opioid use, it’s natural for the patient to develop tolerance to the drug. If the only thing the doctor does to treat pain is to keep prescribing more opioids, though, he or she could be negligent.
A responsible doctor would consider other treatment options, like physical therapy. At the very least, if the opioid treatment isn’t working, most doctors would order a test to evaluate the extent of the injury. Some dangerous doctors throw ever-increasing amounts of pills at the problem without even diagnosing what the problem is first.
Ignoring Signs of Opioid Addiction
Prescription painkillers are just as addictive as heroin, and doctors who prescribe them know that. They need to pay attention to any signs that the patient could be developing an addiction. These doctors must make sure patients who develop substance abuse problems get help.
However, our overdose lawyers have seen situations where the patient told the doctor they thought they had a problem, and the doctor did nothing to help.
Prescribing Opioids Unnecessarily
Opioids are powerful pain relievers, but they don’t work well for every type of pain. In fact, there are plenty of conditions that opioids just aren’t appropriate to treat.
The FDA only approves drugs for treating certain conditions. When doctors prescribe a drug for a condition not approved by the FDA, it’s called off-label prescribing. It’s legal for doctors to prescribe medications off-label, but they should always have a good reason for doing so.
Some of the most powerful opioid painkillers are approved only for late-stage cancer breakthrough pain. Yet our opioid addiction lawyers have seen doctors prescribe these drugs for conditions they just aren’t appropriate for. These conditions include fibromyalgia and migraines.
Research has shown that opioids aren’t effective treatments for these conditions. Doctors can keep prescribing more of the drug, but it won’t help.
Opioids are contraindicated, recommended against, for migraines, since long-term use is linked to chronic headaches.
Over time, some patients taking opioids to develop a condition called opioid-induced hyperalgesia. The long-term use of opiates makes them more sensitive to pain.
Opioids, particularly strong ones like fentanyl, shouldn’t be the first-line treatment for chronic pain conditions. A doctor who prescribes these drugs off-label without having a good reason for doing so is putting patients at risk.
There’s a good chance that you don’t know if your loved one’s doctor made any of these dangerous mistakes, and that’s okay. An opioid overdose attorney can collect your family member’s records and find out for you.
Recently, our opioid drug attorneys have also held other parties accountable for overdose deaths: pharmaceutical manufacturers. We’re fighting ongoing battles on behalf of families who lost someone to an opioid overdose against companies such as:
- Insys Therapeutics
- Cephalon Inc.
- Teva Pharmaceuticals
These are complex cases. Even if a negligent doctor contributed to your loved one’s passing, you might not have a claim against the drug’s manufacturer.
However, in cases in which the pharmaceutical company marketed the drug illegally, an opioid addiction lawyer can hold the company accountable. In one of our current cases, the pharmaceutical sales representative actually met with the patient to pitch the drug for off-label use, an event that never should have happened.
Opioid Overdose Help
In recent years, opiate overdose law has been a major focus of Console & Associates P.C. Our opioid overdose lawyers have helped several families hold dangerous doctors accountable. We have recovered millions in compensation for our clients. Our work on behalf of overdose victims has garnered national news recognition from publications such as:
The only way to find out the truth about your loved one’s death, to make the people who are truly responsible for this tragedy face the consequences, is to pursue an opioid lawsuit.
Though nothing about the grief you’re going through is easy, an opioid overdose lawyer can make the complex legal process as easy as possible for your family. We’ll handle every aspect of your claim and cover all of the upfront costs. You don’t have to worry about legal deadlines or about organizing documents, and you never have to pay anything unless we succeed in getting money for you.
You know that this overdose shouldn’t have happened. Choosing to take action could be an important step toward getting closure, honoring your loved one’s memory, and preventing other families from suffering an unnecessary loss like yours.
We’re on your side. Call (856) 778-5500 and start getting help today.