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Doctors often prescribe pain killers for people who have been injured or are recovering from surgery. While these medications can be highly effective, they also can pose a threat to patients who might become addicted.

A pain-killer addiction can cause a downward spiral and may lead to a practice known as “doctor-shopping.” A person in the grip of an addiction might see multiple doctors and get prescriptions at multiple pharmacies for medications that are made from opium, an ingredient in heroin.

The opioid crisis in the United States has reached epidemic proportions. President Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency. Our experienced attorneys know that competent doctors should be vigilant when prescribing powerful medications. Physicians who overprescribe opioids may be liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit if they are found negligent.

On the heels of the president’s declaration, the state of Illinois has added safeguards to reduce abuse of prescription pain-killers and prevent doctor-shopping (when someone visits three or more doctors and obtains prescriptions from three or more pharmacies).

Requirements of the new opioid abuse prevention law

The law (Senate Bill 772, which went into effect Jan. 1), requires physicians, and those who prescribe “Schedule II” medication, to use the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), according to a Belleville News-Democrat article posted on saukvalley.com. Drugs or substances with a high potential for abuse fall under Schedule II classification.

A doctor or anyone with an Illinois Controlled Substance License prescribing a Schedule II drug for the first time for a patient will have to check the PMP and keep a record of their action.

The PMP may issue a report to the doctor or prescriber if doctor shopping, or “medication shopping,” is detected.

With the opioid crisis in full swing, we applaud the state’s move to take steps such as the PMP law to reduce opioid abuse. It’s critical that doctors and other prescribers follow the law. Narcotics are an effective means to relieve pain, which is why doctors often prescribe opioids after surgery or other procedures.

But if a doctor prescribes such powerful drugs to a patient with a history of abuse and who may be “doctor shopping,” the physician may be acting negligently. With the new law in place, doctors may be negligent if they fail to check the PMP when prescribing a Schedule II drug to a patient.

We understand how difficult it is to break an addiction to prescription pain medication. As Governor Bruce Rauner stated, “It’s been very easy for patients … to get access to medications that are addictive,” according to saukvalley.com. “There has not been a proper way … to monitor that and prevent over-prescription and prescription abuse.”

The new law could have a real impact in the fight against prescription drug addiction.

If you or a loved one is addicted to a prescribed opioid pain medication and you think a prescriber was negligent, contact us at Deratany & Kosner. We offer free and confidential consultations.

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