Physicians with knowledge of the dangers of opioids could be liable to their Louisiana patients if they fail to adequately warn them. The recent lawsuit by the Louisiana Department of Health against several manufacturers of opioids argues that businesses should be liable for damages flowing from fraud in their marketing of opioids. And, at the heart of these lawsuits are allegations regarding the way manufacturers “led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive” and told them that greater dosages could be safely prescribed to patients who were already addicted. However, the liability of businesses also gives rise to concerns regarding the extent to which physicians have failed to warn, or have misinformed, patients with respect to these drugs.
Some argue that opioid addiction is worse because of doctors. As reported by Quartz, the epidemic is thought to be “doctor-driven” and can be “reversed in part” by doctors who choose alternative methods of treatment. In 2013, over 1 million adults were addicted to opioids and that number has been tied to rising numbers of heroin addicts. In just 15 years, over 150,000 people died from opioids. When these drugs are taken at high doses, even if authorized by doctors, a person’s breathing can be slowed down or even stopped.
For doctors accustomed to prescribing opioids, the warning signs are now clear that greater care must be taken to avoid liability for harm or death to their patients. They must avoid over-prescribing opioids, do more to inform patients of their effects, and utilize alternative forms of treatment.