Opioid painkillers are one of the most frequently prescribed drug classes in the U.S. According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the quantity of opioid painkillers prescribed in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999. Overdoses caused by opioid painkillers have also quadrupled during that period.
Some of the most commonly prescribed opioid medications in the U.S. include:
Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from the opiate thebaine. The drug is commonly used both to relieve moderate pain in opioid-naïve patients and to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine is sold under several brand names depending on whether the drug is being used to treat pain or addiction. Formulations of the drug sold under the brand names Cizdol and Subutex are usually used to control opioid addiction. Other brand name versions of buprenorphine are used to treat moderate pain (Temgesic) or acute pain (Buprenex). The drug is also available in the form of a transdermal pain patch sold under the brand names Butrans and Norspan.
Butorphanol is a synthetic opioid painkiller that is most commonly used to treat patients with migraine headaches. The drug was formerly sold under the brand name Stadol until this formulation was discontinued by the manufacturer; today, the drug is only sold generically, usually in the form of an intranasal spray. Butorphanol is also sometimes used as a supplement to general anesthesia or to manage pain during labor.
Codeine has been used since the 19th Century to treat patients with mild to moderate pain. The drug is often sold in combination with other pain relieving medications under a variety of brand names, including paracetamol and codeine (co-codamol: Paracod and Panadeine), Tylenol with codeine (Tylenol 1,2, 3, and 4), aspirin (co-codaprin), or ibuprofen (Nurofen Plus). Codeine is also sometimes prescribed as a cough syrup under brand names such as Phenergan With Codeine or Robitussin AC.
Fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid that is about 80-100 times more potent than morphine. The drug is sold in the form of a transdermal patch (marketed under Duragesic and other brand names), a sublingual spray (Subsys), a lollipop (Actiq), a sublingual tablet (Abstral), and other formulations. Because of its extreme potency, fentanyl is only approved by the FDA for the treatment of severe, chronic pain in patients who are already opioid tolerant, such as cancer patients. Despite these warnings, many doctors continue to prescribe the fentanyl pain patch and other versions of the drug to patients.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against the fentanyl manufacturers on behalf of patients who suffered an overdose from these products. Lawsuits have also been filed against doctors and medical facilities that inappropriately prescribed fentanyl products to patients, as well as against drug companies that illegally marketed fentanyl to doctors and patients.
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic version of the drug codeine. This medication is used for the treatment of patients with moderate to severe pain. The drug is one of the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers in the U.S. Hydrocodone is marketed under a number of brand names, including Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, Maxidone, Norco, and Zydone. Hydrocodone is often prescribed in compound formulations along with other pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. In 2013, the FDA recommended new rules for the prescription of hydrocodone because of the abuse and addiction potential of these medications.
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic version of the drug morphine. In addition to its generic versions, hydrocodone is also prescribed as Dilaudid, Hydromorph Contin, and other brand names. Hydrocodone is often used in hospitals because it can be dissolved in a very small quantity of water compared to morphine, making it extremely effective at treating severe pain when delivered intravenously. Because of differences in potency between hydromorphone and morphine and the similarities between the names of the two drugs, several cases of fatal overdoses in hospital settings have occurred because of a mix-up between the two drugs. As a result of these incidents, the FDA approved updated labels for morphine and hydromorphone drugs in 2011 to reduce confusion between the two medications.
Meperidine (also known as pethidine) was the world’s first wholly synthetic opioid drug. In addition to its generic formulations, the drug is also sold under the brand name Demerol. For most of the 20th Century, meperidine was the opioid medication of choice for most doctors; at one point, the drug was prescribed for about 60% of cases of acute pain and 22% involving chronic or severe pain in which an opioid was used. Although it was once believed that meperidine was superior for pain relief and carried a lower risk of addiction than other opioid drugs, these ideas were later shown to be false. Today, meperidine is not commonly used in the U.S. because of its potential for drug interactions, which could lead to serotonin syndrome.
Methadone is prescribed as Dolophine and under other brand names. The drug is used to treat patients with moderate to severe pain, as well as during drug rehabilitation to ease the detoxification process for patients who are addicted to heroin or other opiates. In recent years, methadone has been used more frequently in the United States to treat pain because of its low cost relative to other opioids and the decreased likelihood that patients will develop tolerance for the drug. Although it represents only about 2% of all opioid prescriptions in the U.S., methadone has been linked to one-third of all opioid overdoses, making it one of the deadliest prescription painkillers in the country.
Morphine is one of the oldest opioid painkillers in existence. The drug was first discovered in the early 1800s, and first sold commercially by Merck in 1827. Morphine is still commonly used today to treat pain during surgery or other medical procedures, as well as to treat patients whose pain cannot be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. Morphine is marketed under several brand names, including MSiR, MS-Contin, Roxanol, RMS, Kadian, and Oramorph SR. An injectable version of the drug is also used, known as morphine sulphate.
Oxycodone is a powerful opioid medications used to treat patients with moderate to severe pain. The drug is marketed under a variety of brand names, including Percocet, Percodan, and OxyContin. Because of its abuse potential, oxycodone is also sold in combination with the opioid blocker naloxone under brand names such as Targin, Targiniq, Targinact. These oxycodone-naloxone combination medications help to deter abuse by blocking the effects of oxycodone when the pills are crushed.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of oxycodone drugs on behalf of patients who suffered an overdose or other side effects from this drug. Lawsuits against Perdue Pharma and other oxycodone manufacturers have also been filed by state attorney general’s offices over the companies’ marketing of this medication to doctors and patients.
Oxymorphone is a semi-synthetic opioid used to treat patients with moderate to severe pain. The drug is prescribed as Opana and under several other brand names. Opana is available in the form of extended-release tablets used to treat chronic pain in patients who are already opioid tolerant. An immediate-release version of Opana is used to treat breakthrough pain in patients who are already being taking the extended-release version of the drug.
Pentazocine is a synthetic opioid drug developed in the U.S. during the 1960s. The drug is sold under several brand names, including Fortral, Sosegon, and Talwin. When it is prescribed in pill form, pentazocine is combined with the drug naloxone to block the opioid effects of the drug if the pills are crushed in order to limit its potential for abuse.
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid medications used to treat patients with either acute or chronic pain ranging from mild to severe. The drug is marketed under the names Ultram, Zytram, and other brand names. Tramadol combined with acetaminophen is also marketed under the brand name Ultracet. For patients with moderate pain, tramadol has about the same pain relieving effects as morphine; the drug is less effective than morphine at treating patients with severe pain.
Opioid Painkiller Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson
According to the CDC, 14,000 Americans were killed in 2014 as a result of an accidental opioid overdose. If you or a loved one have been the victim of abuse, addiction, overdose, or other complications linked to opioid medications, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturers of these drugs, or the doctor or medical facility that prescribed these medications. The first step in taking legal action is to speak with a law firm whose attorneys have the experience in lawsuits involving opioid painkillers to advise you of your legal rights and guide you through the process of filing a case.
The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of patients and their family members who have been affected by complications from opioid painkiller medications. Our law firm has handled more lawsuits involving the fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the U.S. combined. Our attorneys have also filed hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of patients who suffered serious or potentially fatal complications caused by prescription painkillers or other pharmaceutical products.
For more information about opioid painkillers litigation and to find out whether you may qualify to file a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following this link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few brief questions about your history to get started.