A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) found that the fentanyl pain patch was the most commonly administered long acting opioid prescribed to opioid naïve nursing home patients. Because fentanyl is only intended for patients with chronic pain who have already developed opioid tolerance, the findings of this study suggest that nursing home patients may be at risk as a result of these inappropriate prescribing practices.
The JAGS study examined the treatment history of more than 22,000 long-term nursing home patients in New Hampshire. Researchers found that among opioid naïve patients who were prescribed long acting opioids within 30 days of admission, nearly 52% were treated with the fentanyl pain patch. More than 28% of the patients were treated with morphine, while 17% received oxycodone.
Under FDA guidelines, fentanyl should only be prescribed to opioid tolerant patients with long term, severe pain, such as cancer patients. Because fentanyl is about 80-100 times more potent than morphine, prescribing the drug to patients who have not already undergone opioid therapy could place them at a risk of overdose or other complications.
The JAGS study also discovered other troubling facts about the way that fentanyl was prescribed to patients involved in the study. Researchers in the study found that 38% of opioid naïve patients treated with fentanyl were placed on a patch containing 50 mcg/h or more of the drug—among the highest doses that are sold. About 38% of patients were placed on a 25mcg/h patch, while just 27% were placed on the lowest dose 12 mcg/h patch.
Researchers in the JAGS study also found that 9% of nursing home residents who were prescribed long term opioids had not been treated with short term opioids such as hydrocodone prior to being treated with more powerful painkillers. These prescribing practices could place patients of potentially fatal respiratory depression or other side effects due to the powerful effect these painkillers could have on their bodies.
When patients are inappropriately prescribed powerful opioid medications such as fentanyl, serious and potentially fatal consequences can result. 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 are committed to helping patients and their families who have been affected by doctors or other healthcare providers who irresponsibly prescribe fentanyl to patients. Inappropriate fentanyl prescribing practices are not the only risks that patients may face. When doctors prescribe opioid painkillers in excessive doses, or when patients are kept on these drugs for too long, a drug overdose may result. Patients who are prescribed fentanyl in combination with other drugs that depress the central nervous system may also be at risk of suffering a combined drug overdose.
Heygood, Orr & Pearson has filed more lawsuits on behalf of patients who were injured by fentanyl than all other law firms in the country combined. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have achieved verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients totaling more than $200 million—including verdicts and settlements involving fentanyl products totaling tens of millions of dollars.
For a free legal consultation about your case and to learn more about whether you may qualify to file a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by visiting the free case evaluation form located at the top of this page and answering a few brief questions to get started.