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Kentucky doctor gets prison sentence for fentanyl, opioid prescriptions that led to fatal overdoses

A Kentucky doctor will spend one year in federal prison after pleading guilty to illegally prescribing fentanyl and other opioid painkillers to her patients. Several of the patients who inappropriately received prescription painkillers from Clella Louise Hayes later died from overdoses caused by the drugs.

Hayes was charged with 13 counts of prescribing opioid painkillers to patients without properly diagnosing their symptoms. Hayes pleaded guilty to five of the 13 charges as part of her agreement with federal prosecutors. The charges covered opioid prescriptions issued by Hayes between 2008 and 2014.

In one of the earliest cases involved in the charges against Hayes, the former doctor was accused of prescribing fentanyl, meperidine, morphine, and oxycodone to one of her patients between 2009 and 2011. The patient died from a fentanyl overdose in 2011. Prosecutors alleged that Hayes had failed to establish that the patient even needed the medications before prescribing the powerful opioid drugs that contributed to her death.

Two other patients who were treated by Hayes also died from opioid overdoses. Federal prosecutors alleged that Hayes had prescribed the opioid drugs hydrocodone, meperidine, and oxycodone to these patients before the fatal overdoses occurred.

Federal prosecutors had sought a two year prison sentence against Hayes, but also stated in court filings earlier this year that she should be sentenced below the standard sentencing guidelines. Hayes’ attorney argued that his client’s youth, lack of adequate training in prescribing opioid medications, and the extent of the opioid epidemic in the Kentucky region in which she practiced were all contributing factors in the illegal painkiller prescriptions she issued while working as a doctor.

Fentanyl Prescriptions and the Opioid Epidemic

Prescriptions for fentanyl and other opioid painkillers that are issued outside of compliance with FDA regulations have played a key role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.  According to a study published last year, about 75% of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. are issued in violation of FDA rules.

When fentanyl is prescribed to patients who are ineligible to take the drug – such as patients who are not opioid tolerant or those who have chronic pain or post-surgical pain – serious and potentially fatal health consequences can result. Although updated FDA rules have made the off-label prescription of fentanyl less common, experts say that some doctors continue to prescribe this powerful opioid painkiller to patients who are not eligible to take the drug.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed Over Illegal Fentanyl Prescriptions

When doctors fail to follow established protocols for prescribing fentanyl or other painkillers, abuse, addiction, or deadly overdoses may result. When patients are prescribed too many painkillers by a doctor, or when patients are kept on these opioid medications for too long, they may be at risk of suffering an overdose. Patients who are prescribed fentanyl in combination with other central nervous system depressant medications may also be at risk of suffering a combined drug overdose.

If you or a loved one have suffered a fentanyl overdose as a result of inappropriate prescribing practices on the part of a doctor, hospital, or medical staff, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. The first step in taking legal action is to consult a law firm whose attorneys have the experience with fentanyl litigation to successfully handle your claim from start to finish.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have successfully handled more lawsuits involving fentanyl products than all other attorneys in the U.S. combined. Our attorneys have achieved verdicts and settlements in fentanyl lawsuits on behalf of our clients totaling tens of millions of dollar. Our lawyers will work on your behalf to ensure that we achieve the best results in your case.

For a free legal consultation from an attorney to find out if you are eligible to file a fentanyl case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out the free case evaluation form located at the top of this page.

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