Coronavirus Leads to More Drug Overdose Deaths

Coronavirus Leads to More Drug Overdose Deaths

June 22, 2020 | Opioid Crisis

The coronavirus outbreak is making yet another serious problem even worse, fatal drug overdose deaths are up 50 percent in Nassau County, and other nearby jurisdictions report similar statistics.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Rydersaid the spike is due to people self-medicating with a combination of painkillers and alcohol.

“People are out of work, people are depressed, they are drinking more, they are using drugs more,” he said.

He reminded people that, despite the coronavirus outbreak, treatment options are available.

Officials also unveiled a new initiative, Diversion Opening Opportunities for Recovery Services (DOORS), to connect addicts with the resources they need.

Thousands of cases are pending in courts across the country related to the opioid crisis.

Dangerous Painkillers

Many prescription painkillers, such as Fentanyl, are more potent and addictive than heroin. Self-medicating with these drugs and alcohol is even worse.

This combination greatly increases the risk of a heart attack or another fatal incident.

Other victims develop cardiomyopathy.

This long-term condition weakens the heart muscle. In many cases, cardiomyopathy is also fatal, especially if the victim had a pre-existing condition or another illness vulnerability.

Generally, the circumstances leading to drug overdose are quite innocuous.

A doctor closely supervises pain pill intake. But as mentioned, these medicines are so strong that the patient often gets addicted.

That’s especially true if, as is often the case, pill intake continues unabated even after the pain fades. In these situations, patients only experience opioid highs.

To feed their addictions, many people turn to heroin and other street drugs.

Or, they might visit semi-illegal “pill mills” where doctors write prescriptions and do not ask questions. Still other times, well-meaning people give addicts their leftover pain pills, thinking they are doing the right thing.

Frequently, cash-strapped cities and counties must pick up the pieces of addiction.

These governmental units must provide emergency services, healthcare services, and other services they cannot afford. More on that below.

Legal Responsibility

In a crisis of this magnitude, there is usually enough blame to go around. That’s certainly the case in New York.

There is some evidence that drug companies knowingly sold dangerous products.

Beginning in the 1990s, Purdue Pharma and its competitors basically engaged in an arms race to produce the strongest possible painkiller.

These companies reasoned that they could charge more money for more potent medicine. And, for most companies, profits are the only thing that matters.

Not coincidentally, in the 1990s, the government changed the prescription drug advertising rules. For the first time, Purdue Pharma and its ilk could market their wares directly to consumers.

A disproportionate number of these advertisements appeared in low-income communities where addition was already a problem.

Amidst all this crisis, some drug shipment companies ignored their responsibilities under the Controlled Substances Act.

Per the CSA, drug shipment companies are not just truck drivers. They have a duty to inquire as to the nature of, and need for, the products they ship.

Their willful blindness paid off, at least in the short term.

Drug shipment companies made much more money than drug manufacturers during the go-go 1990s and 2000s.

The professionals at Napoli Shkolnik make these companies, and other negligent companies, pay for what they did.

Some Legal Options

One way we make defendants pay is by representing counties and other governmental units adversely affected by the opioid crisis.

Coronavirus has put these matters on hold from a procedural standpoint. But our team is still at work.

Public nuisance actions are usually a good option in these situations.

Paul J. Napoli successfully used this legal strategy in the 1999 Fen Phen settlement. The manufacturer agreed to pay $3.75 billion and pull this dangerous product off store shelves.

Twenty years later, the Fen Phen lawsuit is still one of the best examples of a public nuisance action.

Essentially, public nuisance claims state that the company created a dangerous hazard which substantially affected a large number of people at the same time.

These claims are quite complex.

Defective product claims also work well. Manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their dangerous products cause.

Fault, negligence, and other concepts are only relevant in terms of damages. As for liability, victim/plaintiffs must only establish cause.

In all these situations, damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills and services provided, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Additional punitive damages are usually available as well, if there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally disregarded a known risk.

The coronavirus crisis has fed the opioid addiction crisis.

For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in defective product or other injury claims.

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