The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Approximately 4 of 5 people who have turned to heroin use did so only after using prescription opioids. A major factor contributing to this epidemic has been the overall increase in the availability of prescription opioids. For years now, pharmaceutical companies have misrepresented the safety and benefits of prescription opioids to the medical community – pushing medical and dental professional to prescribe, prescribe, prescribe.
Role of Veterinarians in Opioid Cases
The medical and dental professionals responded and the opioid business exploded. Prescription rates and profits skyrocketed. So did addictions and deaths. In 2017, there were 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans. In 2017, there were five times more prescription opioid related deaths than there were in 1999. While prescription rates are on the decline, the epidemic rages on, with users turning to other sources to obtain opioids.
One of the sources may be veterinarians. In most states, veterinarians can administer, prescribe, and dispense opioids and do so without the same regulatory oversight as medical and dental prescribers. While efforts are being made to drive down the opioid prescription rates of physicians, a recent study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and School of Veterinary Medicine found that volume of opioid prescriptions written by veterinarians across the United States has increased.
The study suggests that veterinarians across the United States may be contributing to the opioid epidemic by over-prescribing opioids and/or prescribing to pet owners committing fraud or seeking to misuse veterinary prescribed opioids.
Signs Vets Should Watch Out For
Veterinarians should be mindful of the potential of diversion of opioid prescriptions intended for pets. Signs of potential opioid misuse by pet owners include:
- Owners requesting early prescription refills;
- Owners requesting refills while missing follow-up appointments;
- Owners requesting specific opioid medications;
- Owner’s claims medication was lost or stolen;
- Pet’s condition is not improving or matching owner’s description;
- New clients who bring in seriously hurt animals and seek opioids.
Veterinarians should also provide important guidance to pet owners to prevent diversion and inadvertent exposure to opioids, including how to properly dispose of expired or unused prescriptions.
Talk to an Ohio Lawyer About Veterinarians and the Opioid Epidemic
If you or a loved one suffers from opioid addiction you have options. Veterinarians may have less oversight than doctors who treat humans but they still have a duty to be mindful when prescribing opioids. This can help prevent the epidemic from spreading further. To learn more about your options, call Boyk Law.