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$17.6 Million Verdict Drives Home Liabilities of Opioids

Pharmacist helps woman with her perscription
By: Jason Newton
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The conversation about physicians and the opioid epidemic tends to focus on compliance with CDC and state medical board prescribing guidelines, as well as potential exposure of drug manufacturers, but it is important to note that there may be significant medical liability implications as well. In a key example, a jury in Missouri last year awarded $17.6 million to a man who claimed his physician overprescribed opioids for him.

In the case, a 45-year-old man alleged that he became addicted to three different opioids his primary care physician (unaffiliated with Curi) prescribed to him for back pain—a total of 40,000 pills over four years, according to the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged that the volume of painkillers prescribed by his physician led him to become addicted to them, requiring him to enter a drug rehabilitation program and damaging personal relationships, including his marriage. The jury found the physician liable, awarding $1.4 million in compensatory damages to the man and $1.2 million to his wife, as well as $15 million in punitive damages.

Until the opioid epidemic ebbs, doctors will need to stay mindful of its potential impact on their liability. The Missouri verdict drives home for physicians and practices the vital importance of ensuring that opioid prescribing practices are consistent with CDC and state medical board guidelines. That’s not just good patient care—it’s also prudent risk management.

Jason Newton
Jason Newton is Curi's Senior Vice President & Associate General Counsel, based in Raleigh, NC. Follow Jason on Twitter @jason_newton.
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