Medical malpractice involving prescription drugs can come in many forms. For example, the large number of pharmacy errors happening each day have received a lot of attention in the media lately. These errors, along with dosage and other administration errors in hospitals are what patients often think of when they think of pharmaceutical errors. But there are other types of drug-related malpractice. For example, issues may arise when a doctor fails to properly advise a patient regarding the risks and rewards of a medication. Doctors can also at times prescribe unnecessary medications that can have life altering effects. A new drug-use approval has made this type of error more possible when it comes to certain strong opiate drugs and children.
FDA Approves Use of Strong Opiate in Children
USA Today reports that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved OxyContin for use by kids as young as 11 years old. There are some children, particularly those suffering from certain types of severe cancer, who may benefit greatly from this approval. However, the approval also comes with extraordinary risks for some patients due to the addictive nature of the drug.
The FDA approved the drug specifically for children ages 11 to 16 who are in need of “daily, round-the-clock, long-term” pain relief. For children who are struggling with terminal diseases where addiction is not really a concern, this can be a wonderful new option for pain relief. But the approval is not limited only to terminal patients. It also allows the drugs to be prescribed to patients who will ultimately recover from or at least survive their ailments and who have decades of life ahead of them. For these patients, the possibility of addiction and the severe consequences of that addiction are things that should be explained to the child and his or her parents before these serious drugs are used.
OxyContin Addiction and its Role in Heroin Addiction
OxyContin in the brand name of a time-released version of the drug oxycodone. It is a powerful narcotic analgesic that can be extremely addictive. Addicts can wind up using higher and higher doses of the drug which can eventually result in death. But the problem is not just one of prescription drug abuse. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, abuse of drugs like OxyContin is leading to increased heroin addiction. The reason for this is simple. While OxyContin is expensive and requires a prescription, heroin is much cheaper and is easily available on the street. What this means is that young chronic pain patients who become addicted to drugs like OxyContin may abuse their prescription drugs or they may eventually turn to heroin to feed their habit. Heroin can be cut with many other dangerous substances, and its purchase can bring severe risks due to the criminal markets in which it is sold.
The safe prescription of powerful narcotics to adults has always required a full understanding of the risk of addiction on both the part of the doctor and the patient. Now that these drugs are being made available to young children, the need for abuse prevention strategies is even more pressing.
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