Pennsylvania Dental Journal March April 2017 - Page 28

Your Name Is On The Bottle by Judge Jodi Debbrecht Switalski, Senior Associate with The Stutman Group For the first time in history, automobile accidents are the second leading cause of death by accident in the United States. In our nation’s biggest (and sometimes most affluent) cities, overdose deaths often exceed homicides. Today, middle aged, white Americans have a lower life expectancy than their parents and grandparents. And your name is on the bottle. Meet Paige. Paige is not particularly unique. From an intact, God loving family, she was an achiever and beautiful. There was a light about her and everyone loved her. Like many late teen, early 20 year olds, she got her wisdom teeth removed and because she trusted her doctor, she accepted the need for the hydrocodone prescription he gave her. 47,055 people died last year of a drug overdose. About 27,000 of those were from opioids. A silent epidemic until recently when enough white kids or star athletes began to die and capture our attention. You see, that is what we hear from the 20,000 or so students we will talk to this year: sports injuries and wisdom teeth. It takes less than a minute to buy the pills in schools across America. Your kid’s school is no different. Paige made 27,001. She was 22 when she died. Your name is on her bottle. Meet Harold. Harold is in his golden years. Upper middle class, his 57-year-old daughter reported that Harold takes 8-10 prescriptions each day, including several opioids. Normally active and involved, his daughter became concerned over his constipation, flu like symptoms without his medications and difficulty breathing. Harold began “nodding out” at family functions. The family hired me to represent Harold, a man with no criminal history, not even a speeding ticket, after he was arrested for selling his drugs. You see, his retirement and Medicare were not enough to pay his bills. Selling to his nephew at $40-50 per pill, he can 26 M A R / A P R 2 0 17 | P E N N S Y LVA N I A D E N TA L J O U R N A L make up the difference and after all, he can always get more. 20% of all medical appointments in this country result in a prescription for opioids. Your name is on those bottles. And what about Joey? Joey was born at 34 weeks premature. He is in the NICU screaming, seizing, unable to eat, sleep or be soothed (among other things) for up to 8 hours until he gets his next dose of methadone. 68% of mothers who deliver a baby addicted to opioids have a legal prescription. And it’s not from their OB/GYN. They get them from their internal medicine or primary care doctor. Or their dentist. Joey may never walk. He may never talk. In fact, we are unsure of just how cognitively, emotionally and physically impaired Joey may be. The civil litigation is still pending but with some cases settling for millions, his family believes there is a deep pocket liable for his long term care. I am unsure what happened with the DEA. What I do know is that your name is on the bottle. I could go on… tell you about Brendan. Or Holly. Or John or Susie or Jack or Bryan. But no one is really counting correctly so the number – and the names – are endless. Their mothers know their name. Their 149 fathers know the grief. The one thing they have in common? Their drug addiction began with a prescription from their trusted medical professional. Over 75% do. Through 2014, dentists or dental professionals, ranked THIRD for writing opioid scripts in this country. Yet they were found to be “much less likely than other professionals to be concerned about prescription drug abuse.” 259 million prescriptions were written last year. The paradigm has shifted, people are dying; families, organizations, prosecutors and juries are going to hold someone accountable.