NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As dozens of cities and states across the country file lawsuits against drug companies for their role in the opioid epidemic, some patients and their families are now suing the doctors they say got them hooked on these drugs in the first place.
CBS 2’s Alex Denis investigated the prescription for addiction Thursday night.
“I was addicted,” said Tatiana Green. “At some point, you have to know that the drug is killing people.”
It’s this potential knowledge that has a growing number of doctors being sued by patients now battling addiction, or the families of those who have died from it.
“She had basically pleaded with the doctor to stop giving her husband narcotics,” said attorney David Pollack.
Pollack recently represented the wife of a man who died of an opioid overdose on Long Island.
“He should have known that he was hooked when he came in,” Pollack said.
The doctor, Michael Belfiore of Merrick, was eventually found liable in the wrongful death civil suit.
“(The patient) died from a combination of Oxycodone and Xanax,” Pollack said.
“Doctors have a responsibility,” said Angelo Valente, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. “They have to make sure that they prescribe based on the guidelines that are in place.”
Valente said doctors have been so irresponsible with prescribing these drugs for so long that New Jersey is one of the first states to take matters into its own hands and set limits.
“They can only prescribe a five day supply for a first prescription,” Valente said.
Additionally, doctors and dentists in New Jersey are now required by law to inform patients of potential opioid side effects.
“It is common sense. It’s crucial that a patient who is given a drug that could potentially become addictive understand that,” Valente said.
At 25, and after a long battle, Green is now drug free.
“You’re going to make it and persevere through all of this,” she said through tears.
She hopes the threat of a potential lawsuit is enough for doctors to think twice before enabling anyone else to become so dependent on such drugs.
“This little girl that’s walking into your office doesn’t need this medication,” Green said. “Give her something that’s non-narcotic and let her fight through this pain another way, because she could get addicted.”
Dr. Belfiore is now facing federal criminal charges. But his attorney told CBS2 doctors can’t control what patients do once they leave their offices.
If anyone should be held accountable, the attorney said, it is the pharmaceutical companies which mislead doctors into believing opioids were safe and non-addictive.