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The opioid epidemic is a nationwide crisis. The role medical professionals play in the cycle of addiction is being scrutinized now more than ever. Some lawmakers are looking into whether pharmacists should be held legally responsible for deaths from the opioid prescriptions they fill. Several doctors have already been convicted of over-prescribing controlled substances.
Pharmacy law experts seem to agree that medical malpractice lawsuits targeting pharmacists involved in the over-prescription of opioids will soon be a reality. However, the details about how to determine when a pharmacist is liable for a patient’s death are still a topic of debate. Many individuals prescribed opioid pain medication are suffering with legitimate pain. When does treating that pain with opioids become illegal? This is the gray are that makes legislating pharmacist responsibility challenging.
The primary law on the books regarding this issue is the 1971 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) doctrine making the doctor accountable for the responsible prescription of controlled substances for pain or other conditions. Title 21 also assigns “corresponding responsibility” to the pharmacist filling the prescription. Defining and enforcing “corresponding responsibility” has been a challenge for law enforcement officials since the Title 21 became law.
Title 21 asks doctors and pharmacists to stay vigilant for “red flags” or signs of addiction when ordering and filling prescriptions. Pharmacists need to protect themselves from legal and criminal repercussions in filling fraudulent prescriptions. State pharmacy boards across the country are seeing more and more investigations of pharmacist negligence.
With “corresponding responsibility” being such a cloudy area, pharmacists clearly benefit from additional training and support for dealing with suspected addiction and controlled substances. When in doubt, they should be asking questions and consulting the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), a multi-state network that tracks a patient’s controlled-substance prescriptions. Education is crucial to help pharmacists assist patients in real pain, while protecting those suffering from addiction.
Tragically, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey. Pharmacists who knowingly engage in illegal activity and those who make medication errors resulting in harm to patients should be held accountable.
The Cherry Hill medical malpractice lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. represent those harmed by doctors, pharmacists, or other medical professionals who knowingly make opioids available despite obvious signs of addiction. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with a Cherry Hill medical malpractice lawyer by calling 856-354-9444 or contact us online. From our offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and King of Prussia, we serve residents throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey.