Painkiller Prescription Abuse by Healthcare Providers
As the opioid crisis makes headlines across the nation, Florida is one of the many states plagued by addiction and the deteriorating health of many citizens. Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids are made from the plant directly, and others are made by scientists in labs using a similar chemical structure. This class of drugs is usually prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Although many doctors were unaware of the highly addictive properties, other physicians readily gave out prescriptions to opioid painkillers to unsuspecting patients who were unaware of the health risks associated with such drugs.
Incidents of Abuse in Florida
Dr. Barry Schultz of West Delray once prescribed 20,000 pain pills in less than a year to one patient. Dr. Schultz now faces a 157-year sentence. The investigation of Dr. Schultz began in 2010 on a complaint from a Lake Worth pharmacy that a patient tried to fill a 30-day supply of oxycodone which totaled to around 1,590 pills with a strength of 30 milligrams. Moreover, Dr. Schultz had a pharmacy running inside his medical practice to further profit from the trafficking of prescription pills, knowing the risks of these opioid medicines.
Additionally, two South Florida doctors were recently charged with filling out thousands of unlawful painkiller prescriptions at two Hialeah clinics whereby cash and Medicare payments were accepted. At one of these clinics, recruiters brought in patients so they could receive prescriptions such as Oxycodone. These recruiters in turn paid the medical fees the patients incurred, let the patient keep some of the painkillers and then resold the remainder of the pills on the black market.
Dr. Victor H. Espinosa of Fort Lauderdale was charged with conspiring to dispense painkillers for no legitimate purpose at one of these clinics. Within a span of a year, Dr. Espinosa prescribed 119,534 Oxycodone tablets, which accounted for 99 percent of all controlled substances at the clinic. Dr. Rodolfo Gonzalez-Garcia of Weston was the other doctor charged with the painkiller dispensing scheme.
Florida Medical Malpractice Laws
Although ordinary negligence actions are subject to a four-year statute of limitations, Florida has codified a two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases under the Florida Comprehensive Medical Malpractice Reform Act (“Act”). There is a four-year statute of repose, and a seven-year maximum cap for cases that involve fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation by a prospective defendant. This reduction to the statute of limitations was a way to curtail frivolous claims, promote settlement, and reduce the high cost of medical malpractice insurance.
The Act first looks at whether the cause of action is indeed a medical malpractice case or not. Did the cause of action arise from the rendering of, or failure to render, medical care or services by a health care provider? If the answer is yes, then it could be a medical malpractice case. Was the prospective defendant a health care provider? The Act defines “health care providers” to include licensed physicians, osteopaths, podiatrists, optometrists, dentists, chiropractors, pharmacists, hospitals, or ambulatory surgical centers.
Contact Us Today for Help
If you or someone you know has suffered from injury or addiction from fraudulently or negligently prescribed medication, having legal counsel to guide you in seeking a claim is essential. The West Palm Beach medical malpractice attorneys at the law offices of Gary Roberts & Associates have extensive experience. They can be contacted at 561-686-1800.