Prescription Drug Death Epidemic

According to a CNN report on November 15, accidental death from prescription drug overdoses is the biggest man-made epidemic in the United States. The most common scenario, according to Gary Franklin, medical director for Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries, involves a man in his 40s or 50s who visits a doctor with a backache and walks out with a pain pill prescription. About three years later, typically, the man dies in his sleep from taking too many pills, or mixing them with alcohol. They don’t intend to die, but more than 20,000 times a year—every 19 minutes, on average—that is exactly what happens. Accidental overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States, surpassing car crashes. The number of pain prescriptions increased 600% between 1997 and 2007 according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We often pay attention if a celebrity dies of an overdose, but really, it’s our friends, neighbors, and family members who are dying. 80% of the world’s pain pills are consumed in the United States, according to 2011 congressional testimony from the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. No doubt, many are not misused or abused. Yet culturally, we have become increasingly intolerant of even minor amounts of pain and increasingly comfortable with taking heavy-duty medications. However, after just a few months of taking the pills, the effectiveness wears off, and patients typically report getting only about 30% pain relief, compared with when they started. Even more concerning, a subgroup of these patients develop hyperalgesia, an increased sensitivity to pain. Dr. Sanjay Gupta says in this report, “The truth is, it is easier for a doctor to write a prescription than to explore other effective options to combat pain. And it is easier for patients to take those prescription pills than to search for alternatives themselves.” Both those conditions must change in order to reverse this epidemic. The Treatment Research Institute believes the key to combating accidental deaths related to prescription drugs is creating a better dialogue among doctors, patients, and pharmacies. Co-Founder Tom McClellan, who worked as the deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for the Obama administration, says he believes everyone in the supply chain of prescription drugs needs to take greater responsibility. This means pharmaceutical companies would carefully monitor and control production supply. Doctors would be more rigorous with patient screening. Patients would be more careful about the storing and disposal of their medications along with how they take them. And, most importantly, pharmacies would keep a watchful eye on all of the substances each of their customers takes.

Dear Friends and Clients,

In furtherance of our firm’s culture of commitment to always act with compassion, concern and commitment to our clients, community and colleagues, we have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligations while prioritizing health, wellness and safety of all we can.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced changes to many lives and businesses in our communities, and around the world. We, much like our neighbors and friends, have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligation to our clients, while also prioritizing the health, wellness and safety of our employees.

Until further notice, our offices will be closed to the public to encourage social distancing and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our team is still hard at work, many from home, and you may still call, email, live chat or video conference us if you or a loved one is seeking legal assistance. As the first law firm to offer our clients secure online access to their case file more than a decade ago, we have always been believers in using technology to make life easier and information more accessible. In these present times it has been a smooth transition for us to continue to offer our clients the same seamless and thorough service that you deserve and are accustomed to.

This pandemic is unlike anything any of us have faced in our lifetimes, and while we can continue to emotionally support one another through it all, staying home and keeping your distance is vital to the health and wellness of our communities. It does not feel good to break routines, cancel events and retreat from our normal, day-to-day socializing, but let us remember that, in times of strife, prior generations were asked to go to war and we are simply being asked to stay home. Your isolation equals more lives saved, and more time for medical providers to prepare for the treatment of patients battling COVID-19.

When the dust settles, we will join together with a greater appreciation for our lives, local businesses, loved ones and health. Until then, we will continue to offer guidance from a safe distance.

Very truly yours,

Andrew G. Finkelstein and the staff of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP