Heygood Orr & Pearson files lawsuit for parents alleging daughter’s death was due to fentanyl patch

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by Michael Heygood

On behalf of the parents of a young woman who died of “mixed drug toxicity,” Heygood, Orr & Pearson has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois against a doctor and other health care providers who prescribed and then failed to discontinue the use of a 50 mcg fentanyl pain patch by the woman.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful narcotic that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Unfortunately, fentanyl patches have killed thousands of patients by causing fatal respiratory depression. One way that fentanyl patches kill people is by malfunctioning and dispensing too much fentanyl. Our firm has represented hundreds of families who have had a loved one die while using a defective fentanyl patch.

However, defective patches are not the only danger associated with fentanyl. Doctor negligence is also a factor in many fentanyl deaths. For example, doctors sometimes fail to heed a “black box” warning from the makers of the fentanyl patch that the patient must be already “tolerant” to opioid painkillers of similar strength. A “black box” warning is the strongest warning that the FDA requires, and signifies that medical studies indicate that the drug carries a significant risk of serious or even life-threatening adverse effects.

Each fentanyl patch comes with a “package insert” that contains warning and instructions to doctors who prescribe the Patch, including a “black box” warning stating that the Patch should not be given to patients who are not sufficiently opioid tolerant because doing so could cause life-threatening hypoventilation. The recently-filed lawsuit alleges that, despite these warnings, the doctor prescribed a 50 mcg fentanyl patch for the young woman’s acute pain even though Decedent was not sufficiently tolerant for that dose of fentanyl and prescribing that dose of fentanyl was contraindicated.

The package insert for the fentanyl patch also contains a chart for doctors to when converting patients to fentanyl from other opioids. The lawsuit alleges that the doctor ignored this chart when he prescribed fentanyl for the woman. Even though the patient’s hydrocodone use was insufficient to make it safe for her to use even a lower-dosage 25 mcg patch, the doctor prescribed a higher-dosage 50 mcg patch.

The insert also contains a warning to doctors stating that the Patch should be used with caution in patients who are predisposed to hypoventilation. The lawsuit alleges that the young woman was predisposed to hypoventilation because she had asthma.

The makers of the fentanyl patch also specifically warn doctors that prescribing fentanyl with other central nervous system (“CNS”) depressants can cause respiratory depression. The package insert warns doctors that, if a doctor is contemplating combining fentanyl with other CNS-depressing medications, the dose of one or both agents should be significantly reduced. The fentanyl lawsuit alleges that, despite this warning, the doctor prescribed the patch without reducing the dose of any of the patient’s other CNS-depressing medications.

The young woman died only two days after the 50 mcg fentanyl patch was added to the numerous other sedating drugs that she was already prescribed. The lawsuit alleges that she died of a mixed drug overdose caused by the fentanyl and other sedating drugs prescribed by her doctor.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful and dangerous drug that must be carefully prescribed. Unfortunately, too many doctors ignore the dangers inherent in the use of this drug and negligently:

  • prescribe fentanyl patches for acute or post-surgical pain
  • prescribe fentanyl to patients who are opioid naïve
  • prescribe fentanyl patches to be taken along with other CNS depressants

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has successfully prosecuted more cases involving deaths due to fentanyl products than all the other firms in the country combined. We have spent years studying fentanyl, its uses and its misuses. We have deposed hundreds of doctors, scientists and experts on the subject of fentanyl products.

If you have lost a loved one due to a fentanyl product, contact our firm for a free consultation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free online contact form.