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Naloxone Under Attack as Alabama Opioid Epidemic Continues

drug overdose

A controversial new working paper looks at the potential dangers of naloxone use as the nationwide opioid epidemic continues to kill more victims than auto accidents.

Researchers found opioid-related emergency room visits and opioid-related theft cases both increased in states that have passed naloxone access laws, while opioid-related mortality did not decline. The hardest-hit area continues to be the Midwest, where researchers measured a 14-percent spike in opioid-related deaths attributed to expanded naloxone access.

Naloxone Use and Alabama's Opioid Crisis

Researchers suggest easy access to naloxone, which quickly reverses the impacts of opioids in an overdosing user, acts as a disincentive to avoid risky behavior.

The paper, entitled "The Moral Hazard of Lifesaving Innovations," contradicts previous reports that found access to naloxone did not increase the likelihood of risky behavior among addicts.

Health and safety advocates, such as Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, are concerned that the paper will stigmatize victims of addiction and potentially affect their care. Those on the front lines of this epidemic, including law enforcement and EMS workers, are sometimes called to revive the same overdose victim on repeated occasions. The fear is that anti-addict sentiment will result in this life-saving drug becoming less available or even being intentionally withheld from overdose victims.

Liability for Opioid Addiction and Overdose in Alabama

Our injury lawyers in Mobile continue to see the consequences of opioid addiction. For many, it starts with legitimate access to painkillers after an injury or an operation. The victim becomes addicted and turns to street drugs like heroin or fentanyl. A number of injury lawsuits have targeted some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies, including the makers of OxyContin, as well as physicians who are accused of over-prescribing these potent painkillers.

Law enforcement has even targeted dealers with criminal homicide charges in a number of cases nationwide where victims suffered a fatal overdose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports opioid overdose deaths have increased more than 27 percent nationwide in the last 24 months. In 2016, lawmakers in Alabama moved to allow pharmacies to dispense naloxone without a prescription in an effort to reduce the number of fatal overdoses.

Alabama continues to be among the five states reporting the most overdose deaths nationwide. About 5.8 million opioid prescriptions were written by Alabama physicians last year; 730 Alabama residents died of drug overdoses in 2015.

Recent news reports show Alabama leads the nation when it comes to opioid prescriptions, with 121 prescriptions per year written for every 100 residents.

Last month, Alabama sued Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, Reuters reported.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is accusing the pharmacy giant of misrepresenting the risks and benefits of opioids, enabling widespread prescribing of the drug for chronic pain conditions. It is one of 14 state lawsuits Purdue Pharma is facing.

Many of the more than 200 lawsuits filed by cities and counties are being overseen by a federal judge in Ohio.

While suing drugmakers for addiction represents an unusual area of injury law, legal watchers are already likening it to lawsuits against the tobacco industry, which sought to hold cigarette makers accountable for the billions of dollars in medical costs resulting from the manufacture, marketing and distribution of a dangerous, deadly product.

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