January 1, 2011

Four plaintiffs recently filed a complaint against a Vancouver, Wash. pain clinic and three people on its staff. They claim the advanced nurse practitioners overprescribed controlled substances and in so doing caused the deaths or addictions of their patients. The complaint asks for damages for wrongful death and medical malpractice. The story the plaintiffs tell is a terrible one.

Of the four plaintiffs, two are the estates of women who died from opiate intoxication and opiate overdose. The opiates were prescribed by the clinic. The other two plaintiffs claim the clinic’s “grossly excessive” prescribed doses of controlled substances caused them physical and mental injuries. They say they suffered serious withdrawal complications.

The complaint continues the list of deaths associated with the clinic’s prescription practices. In 2007, five patients who had been prescribed opiates by the clinic died from drug overdoses. The drugs in these cases included methadone and morphine. An 18-year-old woman died of an overdose after taking one 30-mg oxycodone tablet she had purchased from a clinic patient.

Knowing of these deaths and other injuries, and fielding complaints from patients’ families about the prescriptions, the NPs continued to prescribe massive doses of controlled substances. In September 2009, another patient died from an overdose. One of the NPs had prescribed over 5,000 morphine sulfate tablets (200-mg). Authorities found 2,000 tablets at his home after he died.

Earlier in 2009, federal narcotics agents raided the clinic. The NPs licenses to prescribe Class II opiates (Oxycontin, methadone, etc.) weren’t forfeited until December of that year. They will be eligible for reinstatement in December 2011, although they will have to reapply to the Washington Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission.

The Washington Department of Health is investigating 14 other cases that linked to one of the NPs.

Source: “Four Plaintiffs Accuse Vancouver Pain Clinic of Medical Malpractice, Alleging ‘Excessive Amounts’ of Opiates Prescribed” 01/10/11


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