FDA panel recommends overhaul of opioid painkillers physician education program to curb epidemic of deadly overdoses

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by Eric Pearson

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has unanimously voted to recommend mandatory training for doctors who prescribe opioid painkillers in order to help curb the epidemic of opioid overprescription in the U.S. The advisory panel’s recommendations would involve a complete overhaul of the current system for educating doctors and patients about the dangers of opioid painkillers, which cause thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year.

The panel’s vote for sweeping changes in the FDA’s rules regarding opioid education came after a two day hearing regarding opioid painkillers and ways that the agency could improve their safety. During the hearings, the panel heard extensive public testimony about the need to improve physician education regarding opioid prescriptions and the need to keep these programs out of the hands of the pharmaceutical industry, whose aggressive marketing practices have played a role in the widespread use of opioid painkillers in recent years. Members of the panel stated after the hearings that it was important to teach doctors that opioids should be used only in cases where they are necessary to treat severe pain, rather than as a frontline therapy when over-the-counter pain relievers may be sufficient.

Many powerful prescription opioids are intended only for patients with severe pain, such as cancer patients or patients with chronic pain. However, in recent years, doctors have become more willing to prescribe strong opioid medications to patients with post-surgical or other temporary pain. This increase in the number of patients receiving opioid medications has increased the risk of abuse, dependency, and addiction for millions of Americans, helping to fuel the rise in the number of overdoses and deaths linked to prescription painkillers.

Over the last two decades, the number of deaths caused by opioid painkillers has risen steadily due to the aggressive marketing of these medications by the pharmaceutical industry and the increased willingness of doctors to prescribe these powerful medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 19,000 patients in the U.S. die each year as a result of overdoses linked to the use of opioid painkillers, including drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl.

The FDA has made efforts to curb the widespread overprescription and misuse of opioid painkillers a priority since current FDA commissioner Robert Cardiff was appointed to lead the agency in February 2016. In March, the agency announced that it would issue a black-box warning for opioid painkillers in order to alert doctors and patients about the dangers of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death associated with opioid medications.

Lawsuits Filed on Behalf of Opioid Painkillers Overdose Victims by HO&P

When a loved one has been the victim of overdose caused by opioid painkillers, the manufacturer of the drug—or the doctor or hospital who prescribed them—may be to blame. Sometimes doctors prescribe too many of these powerful painkillers, sometimes doctors prescribe these potent drugs in dosages that are too high, and sometimes doctors prescribe them with other drugs that can cause dangerous and even fatal drug interactions.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of an overdose or other serious complication caused by opioid overprescription, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the drug or the doctor or hospital that was responsible for your injuries. The first step in taking legal action is to talk with a law firm with the experience and knowledge to successfully handle your case from start to finish.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous individuals who have been the victim of complications caused by opioid painkiller prescriptions. For more information about prescription painkiller lawsuits and to learn whether you may be eligible to file a case, contact our law firm by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form located at the top of this page and answering a few simple questions to get started.