Addicts Can Now Sue Doctors, Pharmacies for Enabling Addiction

The West Virginia Supreme Court recently ruled that narcotic addicts can sue pharmacies and doctors that prescribed and dispensed painkillers. The lawsuit was filed by dozens of pain center patients who were treated with narcotics and became addicted. Dangerous drug lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm detail this case and its implications below.

The plaintiffs in this case were patients of the Mingo County Mountain Medical Center, who were treated mostly for injuries suffered on-the-job or in auto accidents. They claim they were criminally prescribed narcotic pain killers by four physicians at Mountain Medical and negligently given the pills by three pharmacies: B&K Pharmacies, Strosnider Drug Store, and Tug Valley Pharmacy.

Plaintiffs claim they were prescribed and became addicted to the pills, causing them to engage in criminal activity to support their addiction. It is worth noting, however, that the vast majority of plaintiffs abused controlled substances before seeking help at Mountain Medical. Most if not all of the plaintiffs were likely “doctor shopping,” or seeking out physicians who were known to loosely write prescriptions for narcotics.

Mountain Medical was raided and shut down by the FBI in 2010 after investigators found evidence of improperly prescribed pharmaceuticals. One of the doctors, Katherine Hoover, was accused of recklessly and illegally writing hundreds of thousands of pain killer prescriptions. Dr. Hoover never faced criminal charges and now lives in the Bahamas. Two other Mountain Medical doctors and the office manager pled guilty to criminal charges and were sentenced to six months in federal prison.

An article in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph called the decision a step backward for a state struggling with prescription drug abuse. The drug problem in West Virginia has reached epidemic levels, with the highest rates of overdose of any other state in the country. West Virginia writes the third-highest number of prescriptions for pain killers (behind Alabama and Tennessee) in the nation.

The reporter posits that this ruling directly contradicts the state’s efforts to curb drug addiction and create a better legal environment. The dissenting Supreme Court judges wrote that no one in this case was a remotely innocent victim, and allowing the case to go forward forces citizens (on a jury) to hear sordid details of a drug operation in order to determine who is least guilty.

The American Pharmacists Association called this ruling a warning to pharmacists of the possible legal actions that may be brought against them. The pharmacies were named in the lawsuit because they were aware of the clinic and its doctors’ criminal activities, and agreed to fill plaintiffs’ prescriptions too early and for excessive periods of time, among other charges.

Pharmaceutical Malpractice

Patients who suffered serious injuries because of a pharmaceutical error can file a legal claim against the pharmacy. We are currently investigating cases of pharmaceutical negligence involving:

  • Wrong dose or wrong medication
  • Incorrect dosage instructions
  • Failure to recognize dangerous interactions
  • Incorrect labels, patient information, or dosage units
  • Failure to counsel patients or supervise technicians

It is important to always keep any bottles, pharmaceuticals, labels, packaging and receipts related to the medication that caused the injury. Anyone with questions about this area of law should contact our firm for a free legal consultation.

This decision will likely cause some doctors to reduce or stop treating pain altogether, creating barriers for patients with legitimate chronic pain to receive treatment. Doctors have been caught in this pain medication web for a long time, trying to decipher which patients are legitimately experiencing severe pain and those who may be doctor shopping or selling pills on the street.

In 2010 more than 16,500 people died from opioid-related overdoses – a four-fold increase from 1999. Between those years the number of opioid prescriptions doubled, so today nearly 220 million prescriptions are written each year. Pharmacy and doctor malpractice is much more common than most people realize. Anyone who has been seriously injured by a prescription drug should contact our dangerous drug lawyers immediately. We provide free case reviews, and offer home or hospital visits nationwide.

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