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Opioid crisis leads to complex web of finger pointing

Since President Trump declared the U.S. opioid crisis to be public health emergency last October, the authorities have been pushing to hold the responsible entities accountable—and they’ve been pointing fingers in different directions.

State, county and city governments across the country have been accusing the drug companies of wrongdoing—claiming they had a responsibility to fully test opioids and warn doctors and consumers about the likelihood of addiction and other serious side effects. More than 250 such lawsuits against drug manufacturers have been initiated to date.

Now, Ohio’s Stark County is tackling the issue in a different manner: it’s targeting doctors. The county’s police department has arrested Dr. Frank D. Lazzerini for allegedly over-prescribing opiates as a form of pain management between 2013 and 2016. Two of his patients subsequently died, resulting in two wrongful death lawsuits. Lazzerini contends that he only prescribed such medications to patients as needed. He has been indicted on 272 counts.

The case of Lazzerini begs the question: should doctors be held responsible for the consequences their patients experience from opioid use? Up until recently, many people across the U.S. did not realize the devastating impacts of this class of drugs. If the companies that manufactured these drugs did not adequately advise about their consequences, is it the doctor’s responsibility to investigate further? Or can a doctor reasonably expect that if a drug is government approved, that it can be prescribed according to the guidelines stated by the manufacturer?

Who is to blame for the pervasive tragedy caused by opioid addiction in the U.S.? It’s a complicated question. Share your opinion with us!

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