In October 2017, President Trump declared an opioid public health crisis in the United States. With overdose deaths rapidly climbing over the past several years, Florida Governor Rick Scott also declared an opioid public health crisis back in 2016. And the numbers do not lie.
Overall, prescription drugs have taken over street drugs in terms of drug-related deaths. State reports show the drugs that caused the most deaths in 2016 included:
- Cocaine (1,769)
- Benzodiazepines (1,421)
- Fentanyl (1,390)*
- Morphine (1,338)*
- Fentanyl analogs (965)*
- Heroin (952)*
- Ethyl alcohol (948)
- Oxycodone (723)*
- Methadone (330)*
- Methamphetamine (327)
(Drugs with * next to them are opioid/opiate-derived substances.)
Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin (a brand name for oxycodone), currently faces several lawsuits that, among other things, accuse the company of pushing the drug knowing the addiction risks, falsely promoting its benefits, and engaging in deceptive and unfair business practices. Purdue officials deny these allegations.
Between 2015 and 2016, opioid-related deaths jumped 35%, with about 5,725 deaths in 2016. And, across the country, 90 people a day die from opioid overdoses. In an effort to stem this tragic prescription drug abuse, health insurance company Florida Blue is following another insurer’s (Cigna) lead and will no longer cover OxyContin.
Because oxycodone does provide necessary pain relief to legitimate patients, Florida Blue will instead cover an alternative medication called Xtampza ER. Xtampza ER is oxycodone, but a time-release version. The medication comes in capsule form, making the street value much less because of its delivery system. The capsule, along with the time release delivery, is a deterrent to drug abusers because it cannot be chewed or crushed to inject or snort. Florida Blue has millions of subscribers, and halting coverage of OxyContin could save countless lives.
Florida Blue also enacted a policy in 2015 requiring prior authorization for any oxycodone prescription lasting longer than seven days. They intend to keep this policy in place, as it led to a 20% reduction in long-term opioid use by their members over just one year. This can prevent patients from ending up with too much medication, where it in turn can end up on the streets.
Part of the opioid crisis stems from doctors over-prescribing painkillers. When this becomes a pattern with doctors, and patients become addicted or even die, doctors can be brought up on federal charges as well as open themselves up to malpractice lawsuits.
The expert lawyers at Yeboah Law Group are experienced in medical malpractice and doctor overprescription laws. We want to help you get healthy again and hold the right people responsible. Let us work for you. Contact our Fort Lauderdale law firm at 954-764-2338 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.