Frederick Milewski of South Bend, Indiana, was suffering from back pain related to arthritis. A Navy veteran, Milewski was treated in August 2011 at a clinic that contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs. A doctor prescribed oxycodone for the pain. Two weeks later, Milewski was dead.
His family has filed a lawsuit alleging that the doctor meant to prescribe 15 milligrams of oxycodone every four hours but, due to an error, the pharmacy gave him a prescription for 50 milligrams every four hours. In a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the government, Milewski’s family alleges the mistaken dose cause his death.
In an “Institutional Disclosure of Adverse Events,” signed off on by a risk management official and two doctors with Veterans Affairs, the VA admits the error. “We reviewed the case and we did make an error that was not caught or questioned,” the VA disclosure document says. “The veteran’s prescription was incorrect because of a transcription error in which 15 mg was typed as 50 mg.”
A dose of 50 milligrams could be lethal for someone who had never taken the drug. It is unclear how the prescription error occurred. So far both the VA and the clinic have denied that the doctor was their employee.
The epidemic of prescription painkiller deaths
Drug deaths in America now outnumber traffic fatalities. Overdoses of prescription painkillers (opioid or narcotic pain relievers) have more than tripled in the past 20 years, killing more than 15,500 people in the United States in 2009 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Prescription drugs linked to causing the most deaths include:
- Opioids (painkiller) such hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin) and fentanyl (Duragesic) patches;
- Benzodiazepines (central nervous system depressants used to induce sleep and treat anxiety) such as Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium); and
- Amphetamines (central nervous system stimulants used to treat ADHD and similar disorders) such as Adderal, Ridalin, and Concentra.
Since 1999 there has been a 300% increase in the prescription and sale of opioid painkillers. These drugs now account for more deaths each year than cocaine and heroine combined.
Unfortunately, sometimes doctors prescribe too many of these powerful painkillers, prescribe them in dosages that are too high, or prescribe them with other drugs that can cause dangerous drug interactions. When doctors fail to follow established protocols for prescribing these drugs, drug abuse, addiction, tolerance, or overdose may be the result. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are committed to helping patients and their families who have been affected by doctors who irresponsibly prescribe opioid painkillers and other potentially deadly drugs to their patients.
Heygood, Orr & Pearson fights for victims of prescription drug overdoses
If you or 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. Many doctors who prescribe opioid painkillers to patients have little to no experience with pain management. As a result, they may prescribe drugs that are too powerful or in doses that exceed what a patient requires. Sadly, many of these physician errors lead to addictions, overdoses, or deaths that could have been prevented.
Heygood, Orr & Pearson has represented numerous patients who have suffered complications from excessive painkiller prescriptions by a doctor or hospital. The lawyers at our firm have handled more cases involving the powerful fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the country combined.
Our partners—Michael Heygood, Eric Pearson, and myself—have each been selected by their peers as Super Lawyers in the state of Texas* for several years in a row. Our firm has also been given the highest possible rating for law firms by the nation’s leading law firm rating service, Martindale-Hubbell.
For more information about an opioid painkiller lawsuit and to find out if you 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 located on this site.
* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.