CDC data underestimated opioid overdose deaths in U.S., study finds

by Michael Heygood

A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found that CDC data significantly underestimated the number of patients killed by an overdose involving opioid painkiller medications. According to researchers, thousands more patients died in 2015 as a result of an opioid overdose than the 28,000 deaths that year reported by the CDC.

In December 2016, the CDC released a study which reported that about 52,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2015. About 60% of these – or about 28,000 deaths – were due to an opioid overdose, the agency reported.

However, according to the new American Journal of Preventive Medicine study, the CDC’s estimates did not take into account overdose deaths in which no specific drug was identified as the cause of death on the autopsy certificate. According to researchers, about one in four overdose deaths between 1999 and 2014 had no drug listed as the cause of death, although many listed drugs that were in the victim’s system at the time of death.

Researchers used the data from these death certificates in order to determine how many drug overdoses with no official cause of death were due to opioids. After revising the CDC’s reported death rates, scientists found that the number of overdose deaths caused by opioid painkillers was 24% higher than the CDC’s estimate for 2014.

Several states saw a massive increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths under the new statistics. Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Louisiana had up to a 108% increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses as a result of the new data. Opioid overdose deaths were concentrated in the Mountain states, the Rust Belt, northern states, New England, and the South.

CDC Data Also Points to Increase in Opioid Overdose Deaths

These new results from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine study come about a month after data released by the CDC also speculated that the agency may have underestimated the number of opioid overdoses deaths in the U.S. These findings were based on an analysis of the agency’s opioid death estimates by CDC researchers based in Minnesota.

After researchers analyzed data from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Unexplained Death, researchers found that about 3.5% of deaths between 2006 and 2015 involved complications from opioids. Because these cases were never classified as opioid overdose deaths, the CDC stated that officials may have under-recorded the number of fatalities caused by opioid drugs.

Researchers say that part of the problem stems from the fact that there is no nationally recognized standard for how opioid overdose deaths should be recorded. As a result, much of the decision making is left to the medical examiner’s discretion. Researchers cited the classification system employed by the CDC – the International Classification of Diseases – as another factor in the discrepancy over the nationwide rate of opioid deaths.

Lawsuits Filed On Behalf of Opioid Overdose Victims

Thousands of Americans are killed every year as a result of opioid overdoses. Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has experienced an epidemic of opioid deaths caused by the over-promotion of these medications and their indiscriminate use by physicians.

If you have lost a loved one to an overdose caused by prescription opioids such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, or morphine, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the drug’s manufacturer or the doctor or hospital that prescribed the medication. The first step in finding out if you qualify is to speak with an experienced attorney who can advise you regarding your rights and walk you through the first steps in filing a claim.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of opioid overdose victims and their families. Our firm has filed more lawsuits involving the fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the U.S. – combined.

Our lawyers have also filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of victims who were harmed by complications from other opioid medications, including victims of a combined drug overdose caused by the interaction of opioids with other CNS depressant medications. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to helping patients and their families who have been harmed by prescription painkillers or the indiscriminate opioid prescribing practices of many doctors.

For more information about filing an opioid overdose lawsuit and to find out whether you may qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few brief questions to get started.