The family of a Pennsylvania man who died of an opioid overdose has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the fentanyl lollipop Actiq. The lawsuit alleges that Joey Caltagirone died from an overdose after he became addicted to Actiq and other opioid medications.
Fentanyl – the active ingredient in Actiq – is an extremely powerful opioid painkiller that is about 80-100 times more potent than morphine. Because of this, the FDA advises that fentanyl products should only be prescribed to patients with severe pain who are already opioid tolerant, such as cancer patients who are being treated with other opioid medications.
Fentanyl products are prescribed in many forms. Some of the most commonly prescribed fentanyl products include a transdermal patch (sold generically and under the brand name Duragesic), a sublingual spray (Subsys), and a lollipop, which is sold under the brand name Actiq.
Caltagirone was prescribed the fentanyl lollipop by a doctor who was treating him for migraine headaches, according to the lawsuit filed by his family. Although the FDA says that Actiq and other fentanyl products should not be prescribed to treat migraines, Caltagirone was allegedly prescribed thousands of fentanyl lollipops by the doctor. Largely as a result of these prescriptions, Caltagirone became addicted to opioid painkillers, including fentanyl.
According to the lawsuit, Caltagirone was prescribed nearly 6,000 Actiq lollipops between 2005 and 2011. The doctor who was treating his migraines also prescribed other opioid painkillers, including methadone, OxyContin, and Percocet. Caltagirone died in 2014 of an overdose of methadone, which had been prescribed to him by his doctor.
Caltagirone’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Thomas Barone, the doctor who prescribed his opioid medications. Caltagirone’s death was allegedly the fourth patient under Dr. Barone’s treatment who had died of an opioid overdose. The lawsuit alleged that Caltagirone opioid addiction and death were caused by the massive amounts of opioid medications that were prescribed to him by Dr. Barone.
Earlier this year, the Caltagirone family reached a $975,000 settlement in their malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Barone with the physician’s insurance company. CVS Pharmacy, which had filled Caltagirone’s opioid prescriptions, also agreed to a $165,000 settlement in the case.
While researching Caltagirone’s medical history as part of the lawsuit, the family’s attorney found research studies in his medical file that had been funded by Cephalon, the manufacturer of the Actiq fentanyl lollipop. The company allegedly paid doctors to promote the fentanyl lollipop to other physicians and funded studies – including one entitled “Actiq in Migraine” – intended to encourage doctors to prescribe the drug to treat off-label condition.
As a result of these findings, the Caltagirone family filed a lawsuit against Cephalon and Teva Pharmaceuticals (which acquired Cephalon in 2011). The lawsuit alleged that the illegal markeeting of Actiq for non-FDA approved conditions by Cephalon and Teva led to Joey Caltagirone’s addiction to opioid painkillers and his eventual death from an opioid overdose.
The lawsuit filed by the Caltagirone family is not the first time that Cephalon has faced litigation over Actiq. In 2008, the company agreed to a $425 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. attorney general in Philadelphia. The lawsuit alleged that Cephalon had illegally markete Actiq to doctors for conditions such as headaches and wound dressing changes.
The aggressive marketing of opioid painkillers such as fentanyl has led to an epidemic of abuse, addiction, and overdoses in the U.S. According to the CDC, in 2014 more than 14,000 patients in the U.S. died as a result of an accidental opioid painkiller overdose.
In addition to the dangers caused by the overprescription of opioid painkillers, patients may also face health risks when opioids are prescribed in combination with other central nervous system-depressant drugs. When opioids are prescribed in combination with other CNS depressant medications, patients may be at risk of suffering a combined drug overdose.
If you or a loved one have suffered an overdose or other complications caused by fentanyl, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the drug or the doctor who prescribed the medication. The first step in taking legal action is to consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and guide you through the process of filing a case.
The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed more lawsuits involving fentanyl products than all other law firms in the U.S. – combined. Our attorneys have achieved verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients in lawsuits involving fentanyl totaling tens of millions of dollar. Heygood, Orr & Pearson has also filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of patients who were harmed by complications from other opioid painkillers, including oxycontin, hydrocodone, methadone, and other drugs.
For a free legal consultation to find out whether you may qualify to file a fentanyl lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by filling out the free case evaluation form located at the top of this page.